So are book clubs paradise, or hell? In last week's column, I ran comments from readers who love their book clubs. Today I give you responses from readers who view the concept with skepticism.
I'll begin with the wonderfully plainspoken Edith Clark of Hopkins, who wrote, "I have been invited to join several book clubs over the years and my reaction is always the same: Why would I spend time talking with others about books when I could spend that time reading a book?"
Judy Nobles of West St. Paul has a similar take. "I haven't been in a book club for decades. I guess I'm a selfish reader. I don't care to read a book in which I have zero interest. Life is too short; I'm too old, and there are too many books out there that I want to read."
Judy Westergard of Minneapolis avoids book clubs mainly to spare others. She's a retired literature teacher, and "No one needs to hear me go into 'lecture mode,' which seems to be my modus operandi in a book club."
When Mary Linstroth of St. Louis Park belonged to a book club, she loved discovering new books, but the bad outweighed the good. "There were mean women, many who hadn't read the book and even a few who had too much to drink so we had to stop serving wine."
She found a solution: "Currently, my good friend gives me her book club list and now I have the best of both worlds; the list without the cast of characters!"
Karen Herreid of Austin, Minn., misses her defunct book club and she'd love to join another one, but it has to be the right one. "I am picky about what I read," she said. "In addition, I get frustrated when others don't read the book."
She has found an alternative by hosting her late husband's Great Books group, which formed 40 years ago. "My house is the only one big enough to comfortably accommodate the group," she said. "Of course there are refreshments and gossip, but the book is the focus. This is a special group."
Brendan Kennealy of Richfield worries that book clubs are "a group of people who care about words and want to connect, constantly thwarted by grouches and grumps who want something new to complain about every week." He's considering joining one anyway, though, especially if he can find a book club that serves coffee and doughnuts.
Terry Warner of St. Louis Park has found book clubs to be "the law of diminishing returns. They start up gung-ho! Everyone wants to participate. But then the group gets smaller and smaller until it's down to just me and the coordinator!" But Warner is not giving up. "I'm now in "Book club #3 (in as many years)."
We'll end with Steve Schulz of Minneapolis, who sounds notes both of frustration and optimism:
"I've been part of a number of book clubs. It's tough to get the right [mix of] people. You need a commitment from members that they will read the books," he writes. "I've been in clubs where people are only halfway through the book then don't want to know the ending before they read it, stifling conversation. Another club was dominated by a member. Leading a book club discussion is a skill that everyone does not have."
He adds, "I won't give up, though — I've just joined another club."
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune. E-mail: email@example.com. On Twitter: @StribBooks.