Sunday, 29 April 2018

The book group - Hilary Hawkes

I’ve been invited to join a book group – a real life one as opposed to an online/facebook group.

Now, I have a confession to make. While I consider myself a true bookaholic I’m not all that keen on too much reading to dissect and pontificate at great length with others. If I like a book then I like it and the reasons can vary. If I don’t like one then I usually find out in the first few chapters and either hobble to the end or, in extreme cases, abandon altogether. I’m probably a typical reader.

I’ve read books that have won prizes and thought to myself: “This won? Really?” And I’ve read some lovely self-published books and wondered why on earth a commissioning  editor somewhere didn’t snap up such a promising author.

But these are just my views. Someone else will read the same book and think something entirely different. That’s the way it should be. So book groups where everyone has a different view sounds interesting, but would it really enhance my enjoyment of reading? Would it turn my dream past-time into a bit of a chore? Looking at the list of Suggested Books For The Group I shudder at the length of some of those hefty tomes. They really aren’t books I would choose to read.

Perhaps my hesitancy about joining is due to having studied English Literature at A’level and degree level many years ago. Set texts and dissecting of little bits of them reminds me of exams and assessments.  And while I always knew exactly what I thought of a book – and why- I was often reluctant to have my say amongst others who seemed to be much better at analysing and deciding "what the author meant”.

I've always got my own personal TBR pile of fiction (adult novels and children's books) and non-fiction. I occasionally review books and really enjoy that and I love to talk with other children's authors about children's books.

I think all authors are readers first. But I wonder what proportion of book lovers who are also children’s writers are members of adult book groups. Have you tried book groups and what was your experience?  I’d love to know.
Hilary Hawkes


Stroppy Author said...

Well, what the author meant is arguably irrelevant. You're reading the book as published, not reading the author's mind. It's certainly only one tiny aspect of criticism. Much more important, at least for you reading as a writer, is understanding how the book creates the effect it does for you (and others might be differently affected). But it sounds as though you don't want to, so don't! I'm not a member of a book group. I don't want the way I use my precious few hours of reading time dictated to me, nor do I want to read under pressure, having to set aside other things to finish reading a book when I'm too busy — there's enough pressure to finish writing books, without that! For me, reading is about the only area of life with no pressure or expectations from others so I guard that. It doesn't sound as though you would welcome talking to other people about books, but on the other hand it does sound as though gaining more confidence in your critical abilities would be useful! Good luck whatever you choose — and remember the point is to enjoy it :-)

Susan Price said...

I came here to comment, but then read Stroppy's and -- well, she said pretty much all I would have said, and probably better.
I have really enjoyed talking over book loves and hates with friends who've also read them (we didn't always agree) but I shy away from 'We're reading this book this month.' It immediately triggers my inner toddler, which throws itself to the floor and screams, "But I don't want to read that one - I want to read this one!"
True, book groups will push you to read books you perhaps wouldn't have discovered yourself -- but then, I have Sassy Karen Bush for that! With added whippet.

Hilary Hawkes said...

Thank you, Stroppy Author and Susan. I'm agreeing with your points.