Mar 28, 2007

Starting Man Book Club

This is for men who, if you're like me, used to read for pleasure but now-when not reading for work-mostly read periodicals and airport paperbacks. You miss the satisfaction of regularly reading an interesting book all the way to the end. You may also miss the sharing that comes from a non-business, non-civic, non-team men's group. You want something more communal than soccer game or swim meet chats, but less exhausting than a 12-step encounter.

So, the solution is a book club that men will enjoy. It's about getting guys together AND it's about books. It's not about just one or the other. If you're interested, read on. If you think this is lame, read on anyway.

The concept: Like conventional book clubs, we will rotate houses and meet once a month. We talk about the selected book, whether we've read it or not. And maybe we veer into other areas. We don't talk about our jobs or politics or religion unless asked.

Differences from the typical book club model:
1. We eat dinner, not appetizers. Nothing fancy, but the host will provide sandwich fixings/soup/salad, etc. (All on paper plates, of course.) We may do a restaurant dinner from time to time.
2. We don't argue over what book to read, because the selection process is fixed and is designed to compensate for our years of literary deficit. (More below.)
3. We don't read chick lit (defined as books by women about women). Even if they otherwise meets the selection criteria below.
4. We don't invite our children or spouses or anyone with a humanities Ph.D to join us.

Book selection process: The host picks the book from a list of past winners (10 years or less) or current winners of the National Book Award, American Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, Pulitzer Prize, PEN/Faulkner Award, Whitbread/Costa Prize, or the Man Booker Prize. For a list of winners for each of these awards, and book synopses, check this URL: www.powells.com/prizes/prizes.html

Using a recognized list solves several problems. It eases the pain of finding a book in the first place. It helps you defend the book when no one else likes it. And it helps us catch up on titles we wanted read.

The selected book may be fiction OR nonfiction. (So, if you're increasingly into biography or history, you still have choices.) If it's more than 500 pages, or if you want to stray from the selection criteria, you must get group approval.

Discussion structure: Since men are famously unable to discuss sensitive subjects or appear intellectual, a little structure at the outset makes sense. Some possibilities: To get things started, the host will give the rest of us a little information about the author and anything special about the book's background. The host will also have printed out some questions or topics culled from a reading guide (you can find them all over the internet). If we wish, we can pull a few out of the hat for discussion. I am told by other book clubbers (yes, all women), that falling back on reading guide questions is NOT pathetic.

Time and place and first book: We will meet the first Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. I will host the first one on May 10. At that meeting, we'll get volunteers for the next several months and put out a calendar.

First book: The Human Stain, by Philip Roth (2001 PEN/Faulkner winner). Please email or call me if you are interested.

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