A few months ago, a writer friend of mine sent me this link, apparently by the Canadian blogs editor from the Huffington Post: Women’s Books Clubs Shouldn’t Be Wine Clubs.
Ignoring for the moment the very snide remark she makes about romance novels (because really that had to be said, didn’t it?!), I’d just like to say, shouldn’t a book club be whatever the heck the members of the book club want it to be?
This, in my mind, is the worst possible kind of essay. The type that says “This is my truth” but really means, “This is THE Truth and you’re an idiot to see it differently.”
As if women don’t have enough to worry about, with working women feeling inadequate because they’re not staying home and At-Home Moms feeling increasingly disconnected from their professional friends. Or whatever the choice is that somehow pits one set of female decision-makers against those who make the “other” choice.
Good grief, Ms. HuffPo editor, are you really offended that women get out of the house to drink a glass of wine with friends and call it book club, even if they don’t intend to spend the allotted amount of time discussing books? As if those women aren’t doing the Book Club thing correctly.
I happen to love discussing books, and I am in a book club with a group of women who love their wine. We often don’t discuss the book that much, while much of the night is spent talking about kids, jobs and other life events. For me, the problem is that the women in my book club don’t like romance enough—as an advocate for romance I almost feel honor-bound to surround myself with other people who do.
But honestly, I love the ladies in my book club. They are smart, funny women and really eclectic readers. I’ve read—and loved—many a book I never would have picked up otherwise because it was either a book club selection, or because one of these women recommended it to me. What a gift!
On a broader level, isn’t it bad enough that people feel the need to tell others how ridiculous or frivolous their choices are? Really, wouldn’t it be nice if women could be a little bit kinder to each other? Wouldn’t it be nice if, just occasionally, women (or anyone!) who have a different opinion could act from a place of love rather than judgment and simply choose to not make that nasty comment or write that bullying essay? (We romance lovers get a lot of that, and somehow it disappoints me much more when it comes from women.)
I love romance. I love book clubs. I love any opportunity women have—or create—to make themselves feel more connected, more engaged, more relaxed. Whether that happens through books, or wine, or wine & books, or wine under the pretense of discussing books, I don’t mind. If the members of a book club have a problem with the way things are going, then I certainly hope they feel comfortable voicing their discontent.
But if an editor of HuffPo has a problem with it? Why should we care? Please, allow yourself not to care.
A few terrific mostly nonromance books that have come up in my book club lately:
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Beautifully and breathtakingly plotted.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Agawa. Elegant, eloquent, poignant and powerful.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Layered and fascinating, with a unique gem of a precocious young teen narrator.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. A brilliant romance arc with an Asberger-spectrum hero. Fun and touching.
Happy reading! No matter what you read, no matter whether you discuss books or drink wine, both or neither, I hope you find some time to escape into a good book and enjoy!