Last Monday, the ALA student chapter at my school (in which I am an officer) held its first book club meeting. The book we selected was In Cold Blood ("Read Something" readers' advisory summary will hopefully be forthcoming at some point; I am slowly working my way through the book for a second time, and it is a little tricky to fit in "fun" reading time around academics, work, internship, and significant other). I thought it was a mostly absorbing and rather disturbing read, and was excited to get the chance to discuss it. I haven't sat down with other people specifically to talk about a book since I was an English major/Master's student, and I've been missing doing that.
But I was also a little nervous. I had never run a "casual" book discussion group (though I have experience leading in-class academic book discussions); neither had the officer who was co-leading the group with me. I wasn't sure if some of my questions and ideas were too academic for this setting. I wasn't sure if the other attendees would find the questions I had made up and found online interesting. What if no one talked? What if no one came?
As it turned out, I shouldn't have worried so much! We had a small turnout but a very engaging discussion that lasted about 45 minutes. I think everyone had a good time. And when we were winding down they insisted that we make sure we'd gone through all of my questions! (That was pretty flattering.) After a couple of minutes I was able to relax and just let things flow. In the end it was not all that different from leading an academic book discussion -- we talked about the book more broadly, and with less reference to specific passages, than we would have in a seminar, but otherwise it felt pretty much the same. And it was a joy to be doing this kind of thing again after a year and a half break. I hadn't realized just how much I had missed it. I think that we will try to do another book club this semester, and I'm already excited for it!
This was also a good experience for me at this point in time because I have applied for a job that includes book group leadership among its duties (and I'm sure I'll find other positions with that responsibility as well). Should I get interviewed (*crossing fingers*), it will be good to be able to say that I have some experience leading casual book discussions, even if it's only one or two events. Helping to lead this book group has also confirmed that I enjoy doing so -- not exactly a surprise, given my background! -- which makes me think that I should improve my skills and knowledge in this area. That way I can be even more qualified for leading book groups, which will increase my changes of getting to do it in the future! So if anyone reading this happens to know of a good resource (book, website, or otherwise) for book group facilitators, please drop me a note in the comments to let me know.