A few weeks ago I got an email from Sarah asking advice on an all too common book club problem. She wrote:
"I started a book club about a year ago which has 14 members. The members make book recommendations every six months and then we vote on what books to read. It is expected that everyone rotate being a host and a discussion leader.
One member has not attended a meeting since late 2011, and doesn't even RSVP to let us know that she won't be attending (which we agreed was something we'd all do when we formed the group). I know she is not sick or traveling. Should I try to feel her out and ask if she wants to continue as a club member? Should our club care when members are no-shows and don't participate?"
A book exchange isn't a new idea but a couple of British expats are taking things to a new level with monthly book swaps at Le Carmen, a cocktail bar in Paris which was once a popular haunt of Georges Bizet and is named after his most famous opera.
I know you're never supposed to say never (who knows what life will bring) but here's something that I will never-ever do. And I mean it. I will never join a book club. I don't care if an Ivy League English professor moderates the discussion or it's filled with literati.
I'm not a club person to begin with and, honestly, I just don't get the whole notion of having one about books. Why do I want a gaggle of readers dictating my literature? Picking a book--I mean truly immersing in one--is one of the few things in life that comes without any ties. Everything else has strings attached. I must meet deadlines (and read relevant literature for them). I'm obligated to my husband, four children, two dogs, three goldfish, and one tortoise--all of whom require varying degrees of food, walks, and nurturing.
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I just came across this early interview with J.K. Rowling (probably from late 1998 or early 1999). She's sitting in the now famous Edinburgh House cafe in Edinburgh where she wrote the early Harry Potter books. She looks, frankly, exhausted, but hugely excited to have sold 30,000 copies of her first two books - especially as her agent told her, "there's not much money in children's books." She goes on to say that she's always wanted to write but "my realistic side had not allowed me to dream about half of what has happened to me," - this in reference to her agent selling the first two Harry Potter books to eight countries so, as she says with huge excitement, "it will be translated in France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy and Finland ... I love the idea of saying I'm big in Finland!"