The Reading Rock Book Club in Dickson, TN, celebrates two years together this month. Laura Hill, owner of Reading Rock Books, joins us to talk about her group.
Your book club's first meeting was one month after your bookstore opened for business. Did you know you were going to start a book club when you opened Reading
Shortly after we opened our store, we were approached by Jeremy Spencer,
owner of the local coffee shop/café/hang out called House
Blend, about starting a book club that would meet in his shop. At the time,
we were in a smaller location with no room to hold a meeting.
After we moved
into a bigger location, right next door to House Blend, we started
holding the meetings in the store. Now we also host a Christian book club and
a mystery book club. Our meetings still start with a slow trickle of members
arriving, coffee in hand. I love that local, homey aspect of our group.
Tell us about your group.
We're a diverse group! Typically, we range in age from 20's to 70's, with surprisingly
different backgrounds. We have a solid core group of about a dozen members.
We generally have at least fifteen people at each meeting, sometimes more. The group
is almost all women, though men are welcome and we do have one gentleman
who faithfully attends every meeting. We're a fun group. We read a lot of serious
books, both classic and contemporary, but our meetings still tend to be full
Starting a group with people that don't know each other and watching them become
friends is really a beautiful thing. We have a few members that met through
book club and went to see the Twilight movies together. We even have two members
that met through our book club and will be traveling to Greece together this
How do you decide which books to read?
We read classics, contemporary literary fiction, and Southern fiction. We've
only ever read fiction, but that hasn't been by design. To choose books, members
each give me three suggestions at the December meeting, I compile the list,
and then everyone votes for ten books. The eleven books with the most votes are our books
for the year, February through January. (We only need eleven because we have one
meeting for November and December) Our only real rule in selecting
books is that they are available in paperback; however we're reading The
Help in September because the paperback release date was pushed back.
When we first started, we chose our books month-to-month, which was a terrible
idea. We spent way too much time talking about the next book and our decisions
still felt rushed. Voting for a year's worth of books at one time was an easy
Tell us about some of the books that have generated the most interesting
One of our best discussions was about The
Piano Teacher. We all enjoyed the book, which always helps, but it's
such an intricate story that we spent the whole meeting unhatching different
plot points and discussing our own interpretations of what had happened. It
was one of those times when the book club truly enhanced the book. We tend to
have good discussions over books that are relatively open-ended. The
Road, for example, left so much to the imagination. Whereas, when we read
The Maltese Falcon,
we had very little to talk about, even though we all enjoyed it.
Favorite books of the group?
Secret Life of Bees, Water
for Elephants, Cold
Sassy Tree, and The
Book Thief are titles that I think everyone enjoyed.
Are there any books that bombed?
Monsters of Templeton really didn't work for us. Literally, I was the
only one who finished it. A couple of people ran out of time, but most everyone
else ran out of motivation. No one liked the main character. A Tree Grows in
Brooklyn didn't work either. The book is just so long and covers so much time
and territory. Our meeting had no focus and our discussion was flat.
What do you do in a case like that, when most people haven't finished the
I don't think we've ever had anyone come that didn't read at least part of the
book, and we always have enough people who've read the whole book that it never
seems to change the meeting very much. Even for The Monsters of Templeton,
we still had a relatively good discussion - and we always have fun.
Tell us about a typical meeting.
I lead the discussion, in that I bring a list of questions and try to keep tangents
to a minimum, but I like for the discussion to flow on its own. We start with
any club business, so to speak, such as what book we're doing next, and allow
for latecomers to arrive before we get to the book. Depending on the book, we
may breeze through my questions and realize we have nothing to say, or we may
never get to my questions, as more members pull out their notes and ask their
What books are coming up on your reading schedule soon?
Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,
The Help, Bel
Canto, Pride and Prejudice, and A Good Man Is Hard to Find
are the books we'll be reading from now until January.
Are there any tips that you'd like to pass on to other book clubs?
Our group still feels too young for me to be giving advice. I will say that
I've learned a lot from starting this club. People (at least the ones in my
group) like to be challenged to read things that they might not have otherwise
read, but it's also good to mix things up and not challenge the same people
two months in a row. That may sound obvious, but it took a while for me to get
it right - if I have yet!
It sounds like you have! Congratulations on 2 years as a group, and 2 years
in business. Here's to many more!
This Q&A first ran in September 2010