LitClub: The Booker Prize Book Club
New York, New York
THIS BOOKISH BOOKER Book Club reads only Booker books (say it fast, 3 times). They're passionate about literature—and their name alone reveals the seriousness of their endeavor!
You do some heavy lifting. Ever try something light. . . like Marley & Me?
Not really. Our name says it all: we organized to read books nominated for the Booker Prize—English literature's most prestigious award. It's what we're about
How many are in your club?
We have over 240 readers.
240? That's 10 times more than most clubs! How's that work?
We have 50 active members but limit our meetings to 20. So far, our top number has been 17 (meaning we still can have a unified discussion).
Still...240? Who even has that many friends?
We weren't friends, at first: we were strangers. The group started online—through meetup.com, a social network. Robyn, our leader, tossed the idea out...and lots of people showed interest. After a year—as we've spent more time together—we've begun to form friendships.
With so many people, how do you choose books?
We read from the [Man] Booker Prize winner and nominee list. Robyn controls the selections, trying to choose 3 at a time so people can plan ahead. Members offer suggestions, and she tries to work them into the next opening.
What are your discussions like?
We're a fairly diverse group—in terms of age, profession, life experience, nationality, and travel. As a result, we have diverse tastes, which can lead to crossfire at times. But we're always respectful—even when one person's opinion is at odds with everyone else. Opposing views help us see a book in a different light—so we listen. [Be still my heart! There's the answer to "Why book clubs?" —Editor.]
It's amazing what people bring to the table: someone's doing a dissertation on Renaissance poetry, someone else read the book twice, did some research, and then explained the complex web of historical figures in the story. Others simply read, preferring to let the selections stand on their own.
It's only been a year...tell us what you've read so far.
Here's our list to date:
Line of Beauty
Oscar & Lucinda
Remains of the Day
Vernon God Little
The favorite seems to be Reluctant Fundamentalist for its fresh perspectives on politics, Islam, and the media. We were intrigued and awakened to the Islamic experience in the US and abroad.
Other favorites are Oscar & Lucinda (very Dickensian with intricate crafting) and Wolf Hall (great, unexpected characterization of Thomas Cromwell—his philosophy, political drive, and personality were brought to life). Finally, Remains of the Day because of it's amazing character and impeccable storytelling.
It's ironic—when we don't like a book, we have some of our best and deepest conversations!
For many, The Line of Beauty was disappointing. It was beautifully written, with interesting characters, yet the book had a flat feeling. Some loved it, a few disliked it, but many wanted more from the book.
Tell us about the cool bookswap you organized.
Sure. We held the book swap in a small SoHo library, with another book club—Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. It was all social—no agenda—and so successful that the library decided to host a regular season swap.
The other group reads international selections, and we're hoping to choose a book we can read together.
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