A while back, I wrote a column in which I dithered about joining a book club. I belonged to a book club about 20 years ago, which I found both inspiring and annoying, and I wasn't sure if I should try again. I asked readers what they thought.
Readers had plenty of thoughts — nearly 200 people responded. So many that I am dividing the responses into two columns — this week, arguments for book clubs. Next week, the opposite point of view.
I loved the way some of you play with the concept of a book club: One group sends out synopses of the discussion to those who miss the meeting. Some clubs are run with an iron fist; others are casual.
One woman said that she and her friend started a book club as a way to meet other women — in hopes that some of them would set them up with their brothers. (It worked! But the book club endures.)
Some have a moderator who leads the discussion; one uses a "talking stick" so that the person speaking is not interrupted.
An amazing number wrote about book clubs still going strong after 25, 30 and even 50 years. Lots of you are in more than one book club. One woman is in both the original book club and the rogue book club that splintered off from it. (There's diplomacy!)
Nancy Norman of Plymouth laid out the rules that keep her book club sailing smoothly after 30 years: "Whoever hosts picks the book — the best discussions often arise from books that are both liked and disliked," she wrote. "The date of the next meeting is negotiated — for example, we added an extra month for 'Anna Karenina.' "
Debbie Lenzen of Brooklyn Park has been in her book club for 20 years. Each July, they take a book-themed trip together. "One year we read 'Moon Over Madeline Island' and stayed in Bayfield," she said. "Another time we drove to the Driftless Area in Wisconsin after reading 'Driftless' by David Rhodes."
The book club that Carol McLean of Shoreview belongs to has been going strong for 15 years. "The secret to our success? No required reading," she said. "Everyone reads whatever they want. If you've read nothing that month, come anyway and find out what others have read."
Denise Musser's book club is a walk-and-talk: "My Walk Around the World Book Club has been marvelous!" she said. "We used to walk around Lake of the Isles after talking about the book for 90 minutes at the old Dunn Brothers on Hennepin Avenue. I've made long-lasting friends, opened my mind to new books and heard new perspectives on life."
Cindy Greenlaw Benton of Minneapolis made me laugh with her club's rules, which include: You must come to book club unless you're dead or have just given birth. No short story collections. No books recommended by husbands.
Peter Lancaster of Minneapolis said that "all of us read a lot of books, but none wants to read a whole book at the bidding of someone else. So, we have an 'Articles Club.' You can assign anything: a book excerpt, a short podcast, a video, a short story, a magazine article. Just has to be short enough that no one has an excuse for not getting through it."
And Marcia Edwards of East Bethel knows the key to a long-lasting book club: "We can disagree but still be friends."
Next week: The contrarian view.
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org