Clubbing with the Literati

Recently over at Slate, Nathan Heller asked an intriguing question: Why do readers like book clubs?

Indeed, what do readers see in gathering, books tucked under arms, brownies balancing precariously, as they march up the driveway for an evening of edification? Heller ponders this point as he takes his audience through a concise history of reading groups and the dedication readers had to furthering their educations once they were out of school. He notes that dessert and wine are persuaders for some readers (and takes a humorous jab at unusual culinary contributions from some bookclubbers such as Oreos and KFC), but thankfully, Heller doesn’t put much stock in that theory. He does, however, reveal what he believes to be the real reason deeper into the article–connecting with others.

To me, this is the primary reason people join book groups, both “private” and “public.” They wish to make connections with other readers that offer benefits that can’t be found via online book groups. Readers want to see the expressions on someone’s face as they rant or praise. They want the opportunity to possibly change an opinion about a book. Readers want someone to see their excitement about a book and the impact the reading experience made.

Cake and wine are nice, but no one ever leaves a book group saying, “I’m really glad Hortense served a Riesling with the eclairs.” But I’ll bet we’ve all heard someone say, “I wouldn’t have picked up this book if the group hadn’t chosen it. I’m glad I read it.”

You can’t get that kind of reading experience online. The cake online is rather tasteless, too.



About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

2 Comments on "Clubbing with the Literati"

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  1.' Becky says:

    “I wouldn’t have picked up this book if the group hadn’t chosen it. I’m glad I read it.”

    Exactly. 😉

  2.' Terri says:

    People who love books, love to talk about them with friends, family and sometimes, total strangers while standing in a long line at the grocery.

    However, don’t knock the KFC and Oreos, sometimes the food served is better than the book being discussed.

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