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BookBrowse News Update

Aug 03, 2019

BBC Radio Interview: The Men's Book Club as a Cure for Loneliness?

Quick Summary:
BookBrowse's CEO and Publisher, Davina Morgan-Witts, talks with the BBC's Winifred Robinson on how men's book clubs can provide connection and companionship in ways that other social settings often do not. They also discuss reasons why men's book clubs aren't as common as women's book groups.

Link:
Interview starts at 10' 15": You & Yours, Aug 1, 2019

Article:
Book groups are often comprised of women only, or have very few men. But why is that? Why don't men participate in book clubs the same way that women do?

BBC Radio's Winifred Robinson speaks with Rob Sharp, a freelance journalist in his late 30s, who organized a book club as a way of reconnecting with his friends.

"It was around Christmas, I was feeling a little isolated, a lot of my friends had had families, had moved away for work, and I felt like I wanted to reconnect with them. The kind of work I do as a freelancer means that I spend a lot of time on my own, and I really have to make the effort to see people..."

But why a book group as opposed to just going out to dinner or hanging out?

"You tend to get into the same routines around your friends, you tend to say the same things, you have very similar conversations, so we wanted to move that into a new space. ...And that helped us talk about things we wouldn't ordinarily talk about."

Publisher of BookBrowse.com, Davina Morgan-Witts, surveyed over 4,000 people about the human side of book groups and published her findings in a recent report, The Inner Lives of Book Clubs. She confirms that book clubs are indeed female dominated, but that people want to have mixed membership.

"We find in our research 88% of private book clubs are women. When you go into the book clubs that meet in bookstores and libraries, you see a much more diverse group. I think what happens is book clubs often form around a group of people and then it's quite difficult to break out of that particular group.

Although there are definitely some women's groups who are all-female by choice, many of them say 'we would love to have men in our group,' they just don't know how to go about recruiting them. And also, not many people want to be the sole representative of a demographic in a group.

The perception that book clubs are all reading 'women's fiction' or are just social groups for women is just very wrong. There's an entirely different dynamic going on."

Do book clubs allow people to open up in a way that is different than in other social settings, as Rob suggested?

"I entirely agree with what Rob says, yes. ...The book club allows us to have the depth of discussion that...just doesn't happen very often in social settings. ...[In book clubs, people] also want to segue off into discussions of how the topics in the book relate to their own lives, and that's acceptable in most book clubs.... It allows for a lot of discussion in and around topics, which people just love."

And though sometimes particular problems or issues arise in book clubs - e.g. people who haven't finished reading the book, or overly dominant personalities - Morgan-Witts explains that the best way to create a happy, successful book club is to discuss how the group ought to be run from the beginning, and to keep the lines of communication open.

"There's no single right way to run a book club but the fact is, what successful book clubs tend to have in common is that they've agreed the expectations for their group. There's nothing wrong with having a group that barely discusses the book and mainly drinks wine if that's what the rest of the group wants. But most are happiest when they're discussing the book."

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