I have been part of several different book groups. Right now I am a member of a great book group, but I have had both positive and negative experiences in the past. In a late post, I will go into more detail about what is great about the current book group, but now I want to focus on past experiences.
Some of the negatives have been because of differing expectations for a book group. In one group that I briefly joined, the chosen book was going to be the only reading some of the group members did that month. Most of those members wanted something light and fun. The commitment was keeping them motivated to read, and they felt that one book a month challenged them enough. The group discussions were much like the books, light and popular. There was little disagreement during discussion and, for me, no challenge in reading the books. The book choice was often a book without a lot of depth. During this experience, I recommended a deeper book. Many of the women in the group simply refused to read the book and didn't come to that discussion session. This was disheartening for me, and I think I only went back to two meetings after that.
Another book group that I was part of was good for the most part, but there was one individual that could not tolerate differences of opinion. She would simply talk over anyone who disagreed with her. This led to discussions that were sometimes rather shallow.
Some of the positive experiences I have had with book groups were helped by good book selection. Some books lend themselves to deeper discussion, and more topics for discussion. The book Life of Pi is an example of one of the great book club selections from one of these positive experiences. It includes some of the following topics for possible discussion: religion, coming of age, zoos and animal treatment, how people can be like animals, emigration, being orphaned, India and Canada. This is just one book, and the list doesn't include every possible topic from it.
Another positive experience was with a small group that fluctuated between four to six members. We rotated the book selection and hosting. This worked well because we were all choosing books with multiple possible discussion topics. We were able to read a good variety of books before the group members moved or had scheduling difficulties.
Book clubs can be a wonderful or frustrating way to share what we are reading. More on this topic to come!