I love my book group. It is one of a number attached to Sheffield University and as well as a core of longstanding members, we also have a shifting membership of visiting academics and postgrads. Just to mention a few nationalities, we have or have had in the group women from France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, the USA, Ghana, Mexico, Columbia, Japan, and South Korea. We always ask visitors to suggest novels from their own country and have had some fascinating reads as a result (and also some delicious food when they have hosted the group).
A friend who doesn’t belong to a book group says that she wouldn’t like not having a choice about what she reads. I see that. For me, though, that is the part of the point. If it wasn’t for the book group I’d probably be subsisting on a diet exclusively of crime fiction with the odd rereading of Trollope or Jane Austen thrown in. Nothing wrong with that, exactly, but I feel it is a good thing to read more widely and encounter books I wouldn’t otherwise have known about. Ones that have stayed my memory are Patrick Modiano’s Rue des Boutiques obscures, Orphan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence, and Taichi Yamada’s Strangers, an extraordinary Japanese ghost story. And another example is our current read, A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles, which I absolutely adore, though I doubt I would have picked it up in a bookshop.
So: a good book, good company, and a glass of wine. A highlight of the month and an essential part of my reading life.
What about you? Do you belong to a book group? Any particularly memorable reads?