Freshly Baked Slice of Book Club

Today I have the special privilege of having a guest blogger.  Robena Grant isn’t just any blogger, either.  She is my friend and former critique partner, plus occasional second set of eyes on my manuscripts.  She has also graciously agreed to explain a little about book clubs.  Take it away Robena!

Ten years ago, I would never have envisioned myself as an active member of a book club. I was often invited to join a group. I always declined. I figured it might be too toxic. Besides, I don’t like to break up my day for something that might leave me in a less that content frame of mind. Oh, believe me I probably had about ten excuses. Like, what if I didn’t like the book that was chosen? Or, what if the women don’t like me? I’m very opinionated. I like what I like. I don’t care if you don’t like what I like, but really, seriously, I’d hate to have to tell you that your choice of book sucks. Heaven help me, I hate conflict. And, what if I was the only person who didn’t “get” what the book was about?

So I stayed away. Then I joined the Jenny Crusie Forums and they had a twice a month Book Club. I didn’t have to choose the book. It was all done online. I could join in whenever I had the time. I didn’t have to dress, or wear make-up. No commitment. The author of the book would come by and chat, and as a reader I began to feel kind of special, especially when a comment of mine was validated or if it sparked an ongoing dialogue. There were moderators. There were rules for these things. Who knew?

Two years ago, a lady in my small housing development mentioned starting a club. They invited me. Oh, dear. Out came the long list of excuses, but thankfully I didn’t decline outright. I thought it through. Guess what? I love it. Our monthly attendance varies from 8-12 women depending on who is in town. We’re a diverse group, all of the same pie in that we’re female, yet each slice a little different.

In case you’re wondering how a club works, we meet once a month in our clubhouse. The President opens with any club business. The Secretary sends all communications via email and posts the monthly event on our TV channel. We bring in books we’d like to suggest. A vote is taken, and we record which books will be read for the following three months. One rule is you must have read the novel first to be able to recommend it to the group. Then
the President introduces the host for that month and she moderates the discussion. Nobody is shy about voicing their opinion. And everyone gets heard. It’s kind of fun for me to hear why something didn’t work for a reader. I’m a writer. This is the most incredible feedback for me. It’s Writing Craft 101. No discussions are allowed on husbands, households, fashions, or anything else, until the book club ends. Then there is a social hour, and of course, a little wine.

When NY Times bestselling author, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, came to our small town, we read her novel, Call Me Irresistible. We went to dinner, and to the library to hear her speak. When we read, Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, we had a guest, Emile Rummel, a Jewish man who had been in Paris at that time. After we read Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, we attended the movie and discussed and compared both art forms. We did the same with, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. There are many friendships formed from groups. Three ladies from the club are now my beta readers and read and comment on my manuscripts. And I always have a buddy I can call to go see a movie with.

This December I’ve invited, Lynne Marshall, to the Book Club. One for the Road is her new release, and a fabulous story. We’ll read it in advance and then discuss it with her. I’m looking forward to the event. What type of pie will I serve? The hero, Tyler White, is definitely an American honey; a country western singer who needs some good loving and home cooking. What do you think? Apple, pecan, or blueberry?

Oh, I think apple all the way for Tyler!  Thank you so much Robena for describing your experience with book clubs, I hope it encourages people to join one, not only for the reading experience, but for the socializing!

Have you ever thought about joining a book club, or do you have a good or bad experience you’d like to share?  I’ll give one commenter an amazon gift of One for the Road in either e-book or print.

You can visit Robena at her website and blog here:  Thanks for visiting the blog today.  Make it a great week!

Best wishes,


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43 Responses to Freshly Baked Slice of Book Club

  1. Kate George says:

    Hi there, Robena!

    Pecan is my choice of pie with apple coming in a close second.

    I like the sound of your book clubs. Wish I was closer to you.

  2. I was once a part of a book club for about a year. It wasn’t a great experience. The other women were great, the books were okay, but the discussion was more of family and friends than the actual books and I was frequently dissatisfied. Since it was a long drive for me on a rare child free afternoon, I gave up pretty easily. Maybe I should look around and try again. Especially if they serve pie.

    • robena grant says:

      Julia, thanks for the visit. Yes, pie helps. (And wine) Ha ha.
      Like you I hesitated in getting involved but the club I’m in now really does take the book seriously. I’ve read books I never would have picked up on my own. An example is The Beauty of Humanity Movement, by Camilla Gibb. It’s set in Vietnam (post Vietnam war) and told through the eyes of an elderly man. Fascinating reading.

  3. I’m just popping in to say how happy I am to have Robena visit today, and I know she’ll be by to reply to your comments Kate and Julia, very shortly.

  4. Nan says:

    Robena, your book club sounds wonderful–you’ve found a great resource, friends and beta readers and people who listen and share. That’s a treat! I’ve never been in a book club before although several friends have talked about giving it a try. You’ve inspired me, I’m going to gather up a group and see if I can generate some enthusiasm. I’ll send them here to Lynne’s site to read your blog post! Thanks! And have I mentioned before how incredibly beautiful you are? What a wonderful picture!

    Thanks, Lynne, for giving Robena a forum here!

    • robena grant says:

      Awww. Nan you are too kind. And yes, with you being an editor I’m sure you would bring so much to a book club. I’d probably be so in awe of your knowledge I’d be dumbstruck. Me not having an opinion, now that is a vision I find hard to imagine. Hee hee.

    • Nan – it is completely my pleasure to have Robena as a guest blogger. This is a good topic, and I’m enjoying reading everyone’s answers. And thank you for commenting.

  5. Great post, girls!
    How about apple with a sprinkling of blueberries?

  6. BarbN says:

    Hi, Robena– your book club sounds great. My book club experiences have been more along the lines of Julia’s. Lots of talking about everything else and not much attention paid to the book. I’m not in one right now, but maybe I should keep trying.

    I generally make half a dozen pies for our multi-family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, so I have lots of opinions about pie. Is the heroine a good cook? If not, pecan pies are easy, easy– takes about 5 min to make the filling. If she loves to cook, I’d go with apple. Apple pie takes a lot of practice to get just right. I love blueberries in muffins and cereal, but don’t care for blueberry pie. For some reason, many men seem to love cherry pie– another alternative.

    My .02.

  7. robena grant says:

    Yum! Last year I went to the small town of Julian, California, for apple picking. At lunch I had the best dessert ever. Apple and blueberry crumble. It was a wonderful combination. Thanks for bringing back that memory, Genella. Now I’m hungry. : )

    • I think apples and blueberries are the best combination for fruit dessert in the world! I’d love to get a recipe for that crumble. Oh, wait, I really like peaches and blueberries too.

      Oh, wait, what are talking about? Book clubs?

      I tend to agree with Julia and Laura – too much socializing during the book club portion of the meeting would bug me. I’m a “let’s get down to work” kind of person (must be the old nurse in me), but afterwards, I’d be all for a social hour – including wind, of course. 🙂

  8. Vonnie Davis says:

    My hips and I both adore pie; it’s a weakness, I’m afraid. Lovely post. I don’t know if I’d join a bookclub or not? My thoughts would be like yours–what if I didn’t like the books the group chose? Since reading is such a treat, I read what I like. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    • Vonnie – I still chuckle over the Seinfeld episode where George is in a book club to impress some girl and they’re reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s and he decides to skip the reading part and rent the movie. That character was a real piece of work. Though i admit to not reading The Help and only seeing the movie – not that I’m in a book club or anything…

  9. robena grant says:

    Hi, Vonnie. Long time no see. : )
    Yep, I get that…the worry about if you didn’t like the chosen book. That was me pre-book club. But seriously, some of our best discussions have been when several readers didn’t like a particular book. Or even hated it.
    I remember when we chose a romance novel and the one male attendee said, “It was a good story, but the ending was…well, it was predictable.” Ha ha. We had to tell him that is a genre requirement. A romance must have a HEA, just as a mystery must have a protagonist who will solve that mystery.

  10. Laura Sheehan says:

    I have a book club here at my work (UCLA Pediatrics), but it doesn’t sound nearly as successful as yours! With some recent retirements, our group has shrunk down to about 5, and if a few can’t make it to a meeting, it gets pretty sparse. We’ve also had the same experience that other commenters are mentioning: more socializing than discussing the books (although, that’s not always a bad thing). The other problem (besides attendance) is that our book tastes are SO different. One of the authors is a big fan of the typical book club literary fiction type books (“The Help,” “Water for Elephants,” etc.), but she can’t stand fantasy or romance because they “aren’t real.” That makes it hard for me, because fantasy and romance are my two favorite categories! BUT – i have to admit, being in the club has widened my reading material. I’ve read books I never thought I’d read, and LOVED them! (e.g.”Pillars of the Earth”) So, if nothing else, it helps me read outside the box, so to speak, and helps me discover what I like and what I don’t like.

    PS – Apple all the way!

    • robena grant says:

      Laura, good to see you here. Yes I think the success of a club is in it’s diversity, (both members and book choices.) I just got back from taking my beta readers to lunch. La Brasserie. Yum, yum. Those readers are also book club members and we discussed this very topic. We’re wondering if we should choose a biography in our next round. We haven’t done one so far.

  11. Your book club sounds delightful, Robena! What a wonderful way to both network with other readers and enjoy books. I participated in an event last month for the National Women’s Book Association National Reading Group Month at a bookstore in downtown Los Angeles and it was great! Great to see both Lynne and you on this fun blog.

  12. robena grant says:

    Hi, Linda. I intended to email you. : ) I just finished Beaglemania. Once again we chose to give one of our characters the same name. The antagonist in my latest story is Pedro Suarez. I laughed when I saw the name. Several years ago we had both chosen Wiley as a name for a character, and I recall there was another one too. Brain is too fuzzy from lunch to remember.
    Anyway y’all if you like a good mystery: Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston, is a good read, and I think there is one more in that series that is an even newer release.

  13. You have a TV channel? Dang, girl…your book group is sure tech savvy and connected! Loved the post Roben. Yes…sharing reading with others is one of life’s true pleasures.

    I know your group will love One For The Road.
    I did!
    Christine London

    • robena grant says:

      Hi Christine, our channel 98 is for our development only but it sure is nice to have. We can even place ads to sell gently used items, like furniture and little used gym equipment. : 0
      I also enjoyed One for the Road. Our book club members love the idea of discussing the story with Lynne. We don’t read a lot of romance but every now and then I think it’s necessary as some of the chosen novels can be quite dark.

  14. Monica Stecher says:

    I’m not in a book club but I’m kind of in a book club. I frequent a blog site of a writer that is a very good friend of mine. There are readers and writers at this place and it has become a very special community, these women may very well be the best folks that I have ever met. Robena visits often too. She is a spectacular gal and if the Bettyverse is any kind of example of what book clubs can be then I’m All For Them! Woo hoo!

    • robena grant says:

      You’re so right, Monica. The Betties are a great community and we can discuss absolutely anything. In fact on the old site we did have an online bookclub. Maybe it’s time to get it re-started?

  15. Janie Emaus says:

    I’m in a book club through a library which my 86 year old mother started. And I’m reading books that I’d never have read. Plus, as a writer, it’s interesting to hear why people do or do not like a certain book.

  16. robena grant says:

    Exactly, Janie. As a writer, the feedback you gain from listening to what other readers have to say about what worked or what didn’t is so helpful. Good for your mom for starting a book club. It’s a lovely way to connect with others.

  17. Janie Emaus says:

    I’m in a book club that was started by my 86 year-old mother and I’m loving it. Besides reading books that I wouldn’t necessarily read. And as a writer, I find it interesting to hear what everyone says about why they did or didn’t like a book.

  18. Dee J. says:

    Great post, Robena!

    Apple pie all the way! Yum!

    I haven’t ever been asked to join a book club, but I think I’d be scared of the possible choices. I’m one of those who likes to read the feel-good story. Life is tough enough so I don’t want to read about death and destruction (unless it’s completely fictional and the hero and heroine save the day. LOL).

    Thanks for a great topic!

  19. robena grant says:

    Hi Dee J, it’s good to see you here. Yep, for comfort reading I’m with you. I love a dreamy romance, a Regency, a feel good. But for brain food I love something more literary, more thought provoking. Right now I’m reading Ann Pratchett’s State of Wonder.

  20. Anne says:

    I vote pecan pie as well 🙂 I joined a book club this year myself, so I can relate to your blog wholeheartedly!! I love the activities you have all done – our group already consisted of a few good friends and it is slowly growing as we meet more wonderful people and venture out to do fun excursions together (this Friday – Breaking Dawn night!) Our conversations are always stimulating and I love hearing everyone’s opinions on what we read (although, they want to read my book when it comes out in May 2012…very nervewracking!!)

    Anyway – Never in a million years did I think I’d be in a book club. I’m so glad I am. 🙂

    Pecan pie. For sure!

  21. robena grant says:

    Anne, congratulations on your book being published. You must be so excited. Share with them. Let them read and discuss. You’ll all have so much fun.

  22. robena grant says:

    My day of guest blogging is over. It was so much fun. Thanks for having me, Lynne.

  23. Thank you so much, Robena, for sharing your thoughts on book clubs. I had a great time reading all of the comments. I’m off now to put everyone’s comments in a basket and draw a name. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.

    Please stay tuned, and again, thanks Robena for a great blog!

  24. Tanya Hanson says:

    Sorry to get her late. I’m on digest and wading through a ton of e-mails. Wonderful post, Lynne and Robena. I don’t know if I’m book club material, but then, sometimes it’s good to read things you normally wouldn’t. A few years ago i took a creative writing workshop with poet Aram Saroyan and he had us read The Rainbow by DH Lawrence. I did like it.

    Again, sorry to be tardy LOL.

  25. Hi Tanya – I know what you mean about digest and wading through e-mails, so no need to apologize.
    Sometimes it is good to be challenged to read something we wouldn’t ordinarily. I am currently reading Deadwood by Pete Dexter. It is polar opposite of what I usually read, but now that I’m into it, I am enjoying this story about a crazy time in our history. I suspect books clubs serve to challenge people to read outside their normal parameters. I couldn’t handle all depressing books though!
    Thanks for commenting.
    And again, thanks to Robena for providing such a stimulating blog.



    Nan Reinhardt!

    Nan, can you please contact Robena (or Robena contact Nan) so I can find out whether you’d prefer a print or e-book copy of ONE FOR THE ROAD, and I’ll send you a gift certificate from Amazon.

    Thanks everyone for commenting!

  27. I, too am late to the party. Roben, your book club sounds perfect! I’ve never belonged to a book club; I think because I read too fast? Oh, and I’ve never been asked to be in one, lol! And as I get older, I find my time seems to shrink…very strange.

    As for me, I prefer cherry pie, all the way. Okay, wait – make that a sour cream boysenberry pie (Marie Callendar’s used to have these) – talk about a slice of heaven!

    Great discussion, ladies! And sorry for being late!

  28. Hi Christine!
    Thanks for making it by. Who’d have thought book clubs and pie would get such a great conversation going, eh?

    Hmm sour cream boysenberry pie – sounds interesting.

    Recently I was in Zion and I had a piece of Bumbleberry pie. From what I could make out it was blueberries and boysenberries. It tasted great!

    I wish I was a fast reader, my TBR pile is killing me!

  29. Nas says:

    Great post!

    We don’t actually have book clubs but I would so love to be in one.

    • Hi Nas – I’m glad you enjoyed Robena’s post. If you joined a book club I think all the other members wouldn’t be able to keep up with you! You are quite the fast reader and reviewer, lady?

  30. robena grant says:

    Okay, so I’ve never been known as “one of few words” so, I thought I’d pop in and catch up with the stragglers. Tanya, you should give a club a try. And Christine, and Nas, I can relate to being a fast reader. I often read six books to the one read for book club and actually have to scan the book or go to Amazon on the day of the meeting to remind myself what or who we’ll be talking about. (Shhh, don’t tell the club that.)

    Today was our monthly meeting and we had a very lively discussion of Jodi Picoult’s book, Sing Me Home. It touched on everything from IFV, to Lesbian marriage, Egg harvesting, Alchoholic ex-husbands, Born Again Christians, Sleazy lawyers, you name it, it had it. Hah. But there is never a time that I attend book club that I don’t learn something from another person’s take on a story. And that ladies, is why I attend. It opens my mind. : )