Thursday, March 23, 2006

The power of book clubs

A book discussion group helped Azar Nafisi better understand changes in her native Iran, and how the fundamentalist regime was oppressing women and intellectual freedom.

While most American book groups likely deal with less weighty issues, they still play an important role in many of our lives.

No one knows just how many Americans belong to book clubs, but memberships certainly total somewhere in the millions, especially with the popularity of Oprah's Book Club.

According to Elizabeth Long in Book Clubs: Women and the Uses of Reading in Everyday Life, our groups share the same fundamental purpose as Nafisi's: "they have no larger or more social mission than to gather [primarily] women together for the companionable discussion of books, ideas, and experiences."

What role do book groups play in our society? Are they part of community building? Do they serve a purpose beyond just socializing?


At 11:14 AM, Blogger Liz said...

There is often a commonality in the group. Perhaps they are neighbors, friends from school, etc. These commonalities lead to dicussion and sharing. That can be the social aspect of a bookclub. But what is especially great about a group of women who love to read and talk about fiction is that they are open to looking at the world through different eyes. They can see commonalities in vastly different experiences and extrapolate their feelings from a personal event to temporarily "live in the skin" of someone they have never met.

I don't think you can read a book and not have a reaction to it - that automatically sets up the bookclub to discuss emotion; good, bad, ugly, and beautiful. Once emotion is laid bare the spirit can soar.


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