Book groups – monogamous or polygamous?

I’ve been with the same book group for almost twenty years (I know, longer than some marriages).

I’ve mentioned my group and their reading habits before – essentially, they’re not great at actually reading the book. Or discussing it in-depth. Sometimes the discussion is only “Did you like it? Should I read it?” (ummm…you should have read it before we got together…). But I’m fine with that because I love my book group.


I recently discovered that two of my book groupers belong to other book groups. I don’t know how I feel about that… cheated?

Are we not good enough?

What does the other group have that we don’t?

Do they read the book for the other group but not bother with our selection?

Are we not really a book group anymore but rather a bunch of friends that just gets together to debrief on the month….?


So, your thoughts bloggers – when it comes to book groups, monogamous or polygamous?

14 responses

  1. *chuckle* I’m guilty of serial infidelity in my time.
    I’ve whinged before about my failures with f2f book groups so I won’t recap on that. But when I first discovered online book groups. Remember Yahoo bookgroups? I thought I was in heaven. I joined one, started one, joined multiple others and chatted insanely about books all over my virtual bookworld.
    Until… inevitably younger members wanted to read books I’d already read long ago and didn’t want to read again. (The 1001 Books crowd at Goodreads have never yet voted for a book I haven’t read, and I’ve got 600-odd to read before I die, so I do *not* want to re-read Jane Eyre or Great Expectations again…)
    Until… inevitably, I wanted to talk about books in more detail because they were great, or less detail because they were meh, than they did.
    Until… inevitably, the group became a front for students who wanted to pick brains so they could write an essay without reading the book.
    Until… inevitably, I wanted to talk about books that I was reminded of by the book under discussion and I was the only one who knew what I was talking about. I don’t mind it when other people talk about books I don’t know, in fact I like it, but other people sometimes get a bit tense about someone they think is ‘better-read’ than they are, when really it’s a case of ‘differently-read’ or just being older and having had more years to read in.
    Until… inevitably, secondary school teachers *groan* started dominating the convos in a heavy-handed way. Oh, I was so lucky to have Alec Pillar to teach me in secondary school, that man was sheer genius at bringing books alive, and he made me the reader I am, but he was a rare specimen indeed…
    Until… inevitably, the book choices were not books I wanted to read. Books I knew I was going to hate before I turned the first page, and by 50 pages I knew my intuition was right). Bland books, boring books, overhyped books that were US bestsellers.
    And of course, there were times when I was under pressure to read all the books for all the groups all at the same time. Book group infidelity. Belonging to more than one group can make it hard to be loyal to the idea of reading for pleasure, which is the worst sin of all.

    Now I am reconciled to the reality that I am failure at book groups. But chatting about books on blogs, that *is* my idea of book heaven:)

  2. I am not really qualified to answer this, because I have never belonged to a book club. It is more that I am antisocial not that I don’t think book clubs sound like a good idea. But first of all I think that if you have have been happy with the book club for nearly 20 years, you have a good thing going and I would not question it. I have heard of book clubs that are so serious and high minded (high falutin’) that it would be no fun to be a part of it. And I am very interested in the answers you get.

  3. I’ve never felt the need to join a face to face book group, because I’ve never wanted to read a book I wasn’t drawn to. I love buddy reading with just one other person. Also I’ve recently read a few books on The Pigeonhole, an type of online book club, but you read with others who’ve signed up to read the same book. It’s great fun discussing the books with them and interacting with the authors. I highly recommend it 😀

  4. I’m a book club celibate, so I have no wisdom to impart! Only one of my friends was part of a book club, and it was mums with young children, so inevitably they met up and no-one had any time to read the book, so now it’s a film club 😀

  5. I’m not a book club participant but a friend is a member of two, one of which she calls The Feeding Group because the book chosen is a mere pretext for eating drinking and gossiping. The other is much more serious .

  6. I have never joined a book club even though invited to do so, for any number of reasons. One being I don’t like to read to order, or what someone else might have chosen. So no wisdom here either.

  7. I’ve only ever been in one book club, made up of a few female colleagues back when I worked in a library in London. It was a constant source of frustration to me because I was the only one who ever finished the book. A book club was recently started up in my neighbourhood and I considered joining, but when I saw their first couple of selections I realized it was just going to be the sort of things I consider cheap thrillers (says the book snob!). I’ve done some online buddy reads and that seems to work pretty well, since I’m better at getting my thoughts out in print than in person anyway. I do envy people who have successful book clubs that are more than just a social club.

  8. I never been a part of a book club, but recently I started looking for one in my area. And I think one book club would be more than enough for me and I wouldn’t dare to venture into polygamous relationship with book clubs.

  9. I am polygamous. I have belonged to two book groups, which are quite different. The Brontë reading group which concentrates on 19th century English classics, and another with friends. The first one is very serious, we get questions in advance, information about the author and so on. The discussions are really great and you also learn a lot from peoples’ views. They are all knowledgable and interested. The other one is the one where two out of six have read the book and we lightly talk about the book and then about everything else. We meet in a restaurang so it is more of an outing with nice friends.

    I don’t really mind being part of more than one group, especially if the theme differs. The problem is I read a lot for my blog and have not always time to read for a specific dead-line.

    Interesting question though and we are all different as can be seen by the response.

  10. Laughing. Before Book Clubs hit big “small groups” [under various similar names] stormed churches. I was in a very dysfunctional one and found of that one of the couples was gasp! in ANOTHER SMALL GROUP. First, the mind reeled at having to endure TWO nights of this! Second I was let down. Why weren’t we good enough to be the ONLY?? We babysat their kids, they babysat ours. We ate their deserts, we raked their leaves and cleaned their gutters and they did ours. What was in this [obviously ‘sexier’] OTHER group that we lacked? LOL….

    Oh do I get it!

  11. I am in a book club through work and it’s pretty decent in terms of discussion (we’re almost all English teachers) and completion. My biggest complaint is that we only meet five times a year and that because it’s always for lunch during our contract day we can’t drink (I know this one is silly, but still). I often think about forming an additional club with friends mostly outside of work, but I can se the challenge in terms of time and also know some people in my original group would feel left out. So, basically, I’m polygamous but I really want to cheat on them.

  12. Whoops, I completely missed this. July was a busy time for me – first grandchild had been born in Melbourne in June, Mum turned 89, we went to Arnhem Land, among other things. I’m currently trying to clean up my Blog Inbox and what do I see but this post.

    I love Bill’s reply. I agree that it sounds like you’re a bunch of friends, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I am, in a way in two f2f bookgroup’s. I’m in my original one, which has been going for 30 years. We always discuss the book – we have kept to a set format and there are a few of us who keep that honest! Everyone knows that we meet at 8pm; we chat, have our wine and nibbles until 8.30pm, and then we discuss the book. We discuss the book for about an hour – give or take 15 minutes depending on how much there is to say, But around 9.30, and usually it is then or a bit later, the host makes the tea/coffee and we break for a cuppa and cake, and more general chit chat. I wouldn’t call our discussion high falutin’ but we are serious about talking about the book. Of course there are always people who haven’t finished the book that night, but there are no serial offenders – or occasionally someone is a serial offender because they are in a particularly busy/difficult phase of their lives but we know they’ll come back. One person was so respectful of our group, and so aware that she was at a time when we could not commit, that she “officially” applied for a leave of absence! It was a bit tongue in cheek, but it was also her saying I can’t commit right now but I will be back and please hold my place.

    I don’t think many/any others are in second groups, but I’m in a Jane Austen group that has been going for over 15 years now. It’s not quite a book group in that we don’t always read a book for our meetings. It’s more a literary group in that we always discuss something literary inspired by or to do with Austen.

    How you feel about your friends being in other groups might suggest that you yearn for a group that does some serious discussion. Or, it could just be that you feel cheated! Which I do understand – completely. I think I would too if I found one of my friends was in another general bookgroup. (I wouldn’t so much if it were a special one like, say, Jane Austen or Crime or Philosophy.)

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