When I was in the sixth grade, we had what our teachers would call 'literature circles.' To some students, they were forced book clubs where you had to read the entire book (grueling work for some), make notes, and then gather together to discuss the plot, characters, and themes. To me, a shy, new-to-the-school student who read more than I spoke, these literature circles were my domain.
This was where I could actually speak without being frightened of saying the wrong thing (which I often did during math hour). This was where I learned how my other classmates thought about themes in books, characters’ decisions, and the tangled webs of plotlines within some of these books.
It was also where I first got a taste of what book clubs were like, squeezed between a classmate who used her book to hide her report card from her parents and another classmate who liked to use his book as a makeshift desk pillow.
And although to this day I haven’t joined an official book club, I’ve recognized the benefits that come from discussing literature in a group.
It Gives You a Push to the Finish
We all have heard that books are mental food for the brain. Yet some of us struggle with sitting down and actually finishing them despite our best intentions. And if you’re one of many who pick up a book but never reach the last page, book clubs can help put just enough pressure on you to finish it due to the club's reading deadline. It will help you stay on top of reading and could even help beat this habit for good.
Informality is sometimes a blessing. One of the things I didn’t love about literature circles was that, ultimately, it was for a grade. But book clubs aren’t—they are there so you can discuss, at liberty, anything about the book: what you loved, what confused you, what plot device you thought ruined the story, and much more.
And because you can speak anything about the book that crosses your mind, it lessens the stress that you’ll say the “wrong thing." This helps you communicate your thoughts out loud and without fear.
Gain New Friends and Get Involved with the Community
Books have the potential to bring strangers together. By learning about their own views on the stories you read, you get a better perspective on what your club members are like and how they think. It also opens up paths for you to start a new friendship as you have things in common—whether that be hating a certain character or absolutely adoring another.
Gain New Perspectives
Sometimes the pieces you read in literature clubs are books you would put your nose up at or ignore on the bookshelf. By being introduced to new genres and styles, you see the perspectives of different people and different cultures. And the more perspective you gain, the more you grow.
Boosts Teamwork Skills
Book clubs are actually used in business to help workers grow closer to one another and work more efficiently. For example, Neil Blumenthal, the founder of eyeglass maker Warby Parker, explained the benefits of his company wide book clubs here. He says, “From a team dynamic standpoint, it helps build stronger working relationships. It helps build trust when you create what is a safe environment to share ideas, or to debate ideas.”
Good for Those of Retirement Age
BMJ Open, a UK medical journal, found results that social interaction allows people to enjoy healthier lives after they retire (read more here.) This is because social isolation actually increases dementia and cognitive decline after retirement. So if you are of retirement age, joining a book club may help combat those dreary diseases.
Better Your Own Writing Skills
If you are writing your own book or are interested in starting, learning how people dissect plotlines, characters, and settings in books will help you see what writing techniques work and which don't. Reading books of different genres will also let you experience different styles, which will help your writing skills in the long run.
Snacks Are Often Provided
And for those who still aren’t 100% sold on reading books, there is almost always food at the club meeting. Sometimes they are basics, like crackers and cheese, and other times they are themed to go along with the book. Knowing that you’ll get tasty snacks is an incentive to at least tag along.
If you are interested in joining a book club, Continuing Education and Workforce Training is offering the course Guided Book Club: Devouring Books. In this food-themed book club, you’ll explore the written word and restaurants around the Pocatello area. For more information, visit cetrain.isu.edu or call (208) 282-3372.