BOOK CLUBS are the invisible plaster holding our community together. Book clubs keep many of us sane, yet book clubs have adopted an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The unwritten rule is you mustn’t tell a soul you’re in one, lest someone asks to join yours. Size matters, Sweetheart. You don’t want one that’s too big. Asking to join a book club is a faux pas, too, like sneezing on the queen or hugging your kids too long in the carpool line. You cannot socially recover.
A good book club has a certain je ne sais quois that’s not effortlessly attained. Overachievers ruin book clubs with their incessant need to actually read every book. Instagram influencer types, obsessed with creating exquisite book-themed snacks, should be allowed in sparingly. Keep in mind that women with perfect kids can feel alienated if they can’t passionately participate in the obligatory vent-about-our-ungrateful-children portion of book club. Bonafide historians are a risk with their zeal for accuracy. It seems obvious but also avoid people who favor only bleak Nordic crime novels set in gloomy locations with morose detectives; life is too short. When you find a good book club, protect it like your teenager protects an alibi.
Years ago, my book club read Gifts Of The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Anne was a wife, mother, writer, and pioneer aviator. On a whim, she buggered off to write a book at her family’s house by the sea. Must be nice, right? Morrow’s book is a classic, but reading it hollowed. me. out. I had a husband who traveled, three kids in college, and a middle schooler who unrelentingly pounded and peppered me with impossible demands. Even prisoners get paroled; I hadn’t experienced true freedom since Summerfest 1988. Collecting seashells in solitude sounded as likely as my kids thanking me for wiping down disgusting crud on our ketchup bottles.
Fast forward to a pandemic, uninspiring twists of fate, and a world in fear. I was one minor inconvenience away from imploding. A book club friend picked up on the fact I was one step away from running away and never coming back, probably because I told her I was one step away from running away and never coming back. She gifted me her parents’ house by the sea so I could write the darn book already. I’d mention her by name, but I’m pretty sure we have ordinances that make it illegal for desperate, privacy-deprived, zombie-like women from congregating and clamoring about in front yards begging for beach houses.
I learned a lot from my month at the beach. First, I am no elegant Anne Marrow; I delete a lot of swear words and forget to shower. Second, I am not a nature person. I’m not fond of nature judging me from bushes or lunging at me from under laundry baskets. I do not like nature skittering across my feet when I write. This is the most important thing, though: everyone needs an escape.
Do you know one person who is truly OK? You don’t. Even the people you think are perfect, who are all smiles, and who look great in Lululemon? They’re barely hanging on. The ones with the perfect social media feed? They’re suffering. Our souls are stretched. We need connection.
Let’s burn the Book Club Rule Book: start a book club, ask to join one, or invite others to join yours. Support each other. Share ideas. Laugh. Escape your worries one book at a time.
Is it possible book clubs could save the world? I say we find out.
T-Ann Pierce is a F&B contributor and confidence coach. Be in touch! She won’t ask about your book club, she promises. Drop her a line at [email protected].