Oct. 25, 2013

Getting your book club out of a reading rut!

Recently I was the guest at a book club meeting during which one of the members shared that he did not read the designated book for that month because he was tired of reading about things he can "walk outside the front door and see".  He went on to say that he would like to read "something different", maybe something written by a white author.  In other words, he wanted to expand his imagination beyong his normal day-to-day routine.  I wasn't surprized by his comments because I've heard them before!  I'm often contacted by readers who want to know if I can recommend a good book because they are weary of reading about drugs, sex, baby-mama drama, church drama, and violence.  Readers have also told me that erotica has its place, but they would like to read a story that develops a relationship before the toe-curling sex begins and they long to find a book that leaves some acts to the imagination.  I call this being in a "Reading Rut, which can ruin a book club.  The changes in the literary and publishing world has really made this a reader's market.  Spread your wings and get out of that rut!

 So let's explore how your book club can update your reading choices and create an atmosphere where your member will enjoy reading and discussing the Book of the Month.

 To move forward, you must first look at the man (or woman) in the mirror.  If you are stuck in your own personal reading rut, it will affect the book recommendations you make for your book club - I know it did for me.  I love mystery and suspense and for a long time James Patterson was my "go to guy". Because I was stuck on Patterson's popular Alex Cross series, I often chose Patterson's newest release when it was my turn to select a book.  After several years, I matured as a reader and a book club member.  I began to seek books written by men and women of color instead of works written about men and women of color, which is when I discovered the Tamara Hayle mystery series by Valerie Wilson Wesley. I still love mystery and suspense and continue to occasionally read the newest Patterson release, but I"m more inclined to choose something by attorney and author Pamela Samuels-Young - who says that she decided to create her own characters because she got fed up with never seeing women or people of color depicted as savvy, hot shot attorneys in the the legal thrillers she read.  I also indulge in the latest by Walter Mosley, Solomon Jones and local author Austin Camacho - I love his detective Hannibal Jones.

 When it's your turn to choose the book read, surprise your fellow members by NOT choosing the newest release by your favorite author or genre! Start your search at your local library. Visit online resources such as Amazon, Goodreads, Mosiac or ask your BFF from another book club for a suggestion.  Pay attention by watching the trends and download several book samples.

 If you don't already know it, there is nothing wrong with reading a variety of genres, regardless of the race, sex or national origin of the author.  After some trials and errors, I realized I couldn't always depend on a best sellers list to identify credible works that would feed my imagination and allow me to grow, nor would I grow as a reader if I limited myself to one genre or author. 

 I didn't complain about our lack of reading diversity because I read several books in addition to the book club choice, each month.  But eventually other members began to voice that they felt our reading choices were like reading the same story over and over again.  So we agreed to make a conscious effort to step away from our usual genres and authors.

 Since then we've read and enjoyed the biography "Left to Tell" by Imamaculee Ilibagiza. We opened our doors to emerging local authors like Madeline Nowlin and her debut novel "Watermelon Road".  Although we enjoyed love stories like "Freeman" by Leonard Pitts, Jr., it wasn't until a new member introduced us to Beverly Jenkins that we read our first "romance" novel and we embraced "The Order of the Seers" the debut sci-fi novel by Cerece Rennie Murphy. When we read "Bring on the Blessings" by Beverly Jenkins and she joined us by phone we were in awe.  I wonder how many book clubs James Patterson reaches out to by phone!

 The Reading Divas will continue to embrace new authors and genres; we're on a roll and the we're enjoying it.