Director's Message

Gene Coppola
Gene Coppola

 “Book Clubs!” 

Why do we join book clubs? For those of us who do, there are many reasons. Is it the mystique of joining a secret society or the allure of doing something you haven’t done before?  Perhaps it’s a little of both. Some other possibilities could be you want to meet new people, be intellectually stimulated, have some fun and oh yea, my favorite, you love to read!

Reading a book for me is like going on a trip. It’s a wonderful experience but it could be so much better if you could share it with someone. I’ve been involved in book clubs for over 30 years now and frankly it’s one of the last few things I do that makes me feel like a librarian;  most of the time I’m doing budgets, attending meetings, advocating for libraries in Tallahassee, doing evaluations and just about anything else that wasn’t taught in library school.  But books, that’s what attracted me to librarianship and has held my interest ever since. It started way back when I grew up reading the Hardy Boys and for those of you who may remember, “Classics Illustrated”, the graphic novels of my day. I have read voraciously over the years from Ian Fleming, to Irving Wallace, to Irwin Shaw, to Anne Tyler, to Elmore Leonard, to Hemingway. It just doesn’t stop, and why should it? 

So when I finally got into libraries I had my first chance to be involved in book clubs and what a revelation; there are people who actually like the same books as you do and not surprisingly those who don’t and yet wonderful discussions emerge. That’s one of the beautiful things about a book club; you can have diverse opinions yet agree to disagree in a respectful and civil way. What a concept. But there are pitfalls and you got to watch out for them. So, for the uninitiated, here are my top 6 suggestions in conducting a successful (enjoyable) book club. Please, disagree if you wish:

  1. The perfect number of participants is 12. Any more, it’s tough to get everyone’s input. Any less, the input could be less diverse.

  2. Set-up the seating in a circle so you can see everyone and everyone can be seen. Eye contact, facial expression and body language are so important to the discussion.

  3. Have a strong facilitator. This is very important. This role can be rotated but be sure the person does the following:     
       a )Keep the discussion going and not get bogged down on one point     
       b) Keep everyone engaged; look for those who are not participating and ask them what do they think about a particular point or the book in general    
       c) Keep the opinions of the blowhards to a minimum. There’s one in every group. They love to talk, hate to listen.     
       d) Be prepared with questions to start the discussion and to keep it going.

  4. Be as democratic as possible when selecting titles. Unless it is a specialized group (the classics, mysteries, art, non-fiction, etc.) be as varied as you can. I always like to include in a 12 month cycle a memoir, non-fiction, a classic, contemporary fiction, biography and on occasion, drama. Plays are so underrated in book clubs. Can you imagine doing “Streetcar Named Desire”? Wow, I would love to be a fly on the wall for that discussion.   

  5. It’s OK if the talk veers away from the subject (unless it’s a wine book club). I’ve always believed there are two types of book club members, those who want to stay on the book and those who go off on a tangent inspired by the book. Well, isn’t that what good books are supposed to do, to get you thinking and talking? The worst books are the ones you feel indifferent about. If you love or hate a book, that’s a good one. 

  6. Most important, you have to have fun. This is not school and you’re not going to get quizzed. We’ve done that already. This is a time for good fellowship over good books, sharing laughs (more so, again, if it’s a wine book club), escaping even for a short while all the distractions in life and maybe coming away learning something new. Ha. Maybe we didn’t leave school that far behind.

Next time I’ll share what book clubs Palm Harbor Library are offering, other clubs that I’ve heard about around the country, a great book magazine and some recommended titles that could end up in your bucket list. Meantime, read on!   .

Gene P. Coppola, Library Director