I enjoy being the leader of a monthly book club. When I was little I loved playing school, and since I did not go to college to teach, my role as book club leader is about as close as I get to playing teacher. Getting together with other book-lovers, chatting about plots, themes, and characters, and then preparing for the next meeting all over again have become three elements of one of the best aspects of my job as a librarian.
But I have a confession.
I miss reading whatever book I want to read, any time I want.
For the past year or so, I have made up a list of titles the book club reads and then discusses. Choosing the titles is such a fun part of the process, don’t get me wrong. People often ask me how I make my selections, and I tell them that I research “best books” lists, look for award-winners, take suggestions, etc. I truly enjoy this part of being the club leader.
But I am one of those people who might want to read one kind of book today and another kind of book tomorrow. I am not one of those people who have a pile of books at home from which I take the title that happens to be on top and start reading. Instead I scan shelves and read book jackets and first chapters and try to match my next read with my current mood or interest of the week. So having assigned books (even though I assigned them) waiting for me in the future often frustrates me. What if I want to read April’s book tomorrow, or while I’m turning pages in July’s book, all I can think about is the worn Jane Austen title on my bookshelf at home that I have been dying to delve into because, well, I’m in the mood for Jane Austen?
I am a fickle reader, I admit. Please excuse this vice.
For this month’s book club meeting we are reading Plainsong by Kent Haruf, a National Book Award finalist that I have been wanting to read for the past two years. It receives excellent reviews and I knew it would be great for the book club. The only problem is that all I want to read is something by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte. I am in a Jane Austen mood, remember? I want chivalry and society and witty, clever, feminine characters. I just can’t help it.
But one wonderful thing about the book club and this preordained pleasure reading list is that I have to finish each book on it. Not only am I a fickle reader, I am also a rather uncommitted one if I find myself bored or just not enjoying a book’s first few chapters. My husband, no matter how much he hates the book, refuses to quit until the last page is turned. I on the other hand have no problem placing a book back on the shelf after only a chapter or two. I recently did this with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I just could not get interested, so I asked myself, “Why suffer?” There are so many wonderful books out there! I cannot waste my time on the ones that do nothing for me. Perhaps I will come back to it at another point in my life, perhaps not. I suppose reading is a bit like dating in that way, hmm?
So I am a fickle and uncommitted reader. But I do love to read. I really do. In fact, I cannot think of a better pastime. So, if you'll excuse me, I must return to Plainsong in order to think also of the moment when I might pick up Sense and Sensibility, only then to crave something else!