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Book-Group Benefits

Last night I attended the holiday party that my friend Gretchen gives every year for the members of three of the book groups she’s started (yes, she’s begun, and is a member of, several book groups). This one centers on young-adult literature.

The original “kid lit” group, as it’s known, which I became part of at its beginning, quickly became so popular that there are now two offshoots.

The members of the group are largely writers, editors, literary agents, teachers and just folks who love to read. And reading young-adult literature is bracing: Y.A. books often have a clear narrative sense that many so-called adult literary works do away with. And Y.A. novels are also, generally, much quicker to read than “grown-up” ones, a plus for a book group.

But what I noticed most about last night’s gathering was how enthusiastic everyone was about books in general. No doom and gloom, no e-book versus traditional, or online versus brick-and-mortar. Just happy talk about books of all kinds. Gretchen herself is a bestselling writer, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Yet she finds time to read widely, to raise her children and, of course, to participate in lively book groups.

Have you considered creating an in-person or online book group dedicated to your area of interest, or even another area that intrigues you? My friend Gretchen has been a lifelong fan of young-adult literature (and she’s widely read in many other genres and subjects). She started the group because she loves the books. You can do this: Beginning a book group is a great way to get out of yourself – if you’re toiling away at your computer, writing a book or building your platform (or both), you’ll want to engage with other people face to face now and then.

We writers can be too cut off from everyday interchanges. And discussing books with people you like, or people you’ve just met, is a nice shot of optimism in an industry that so many people want to write off as on its last legs. (I’m occasionally guilty of that.)

But the gathering last night also made me eager to continue my own writing, and to root for writers everywhere. We all need each other, writers and readers, and especially in our current age, when the community spirit is a guiding light, a book group built around one’s passion or avocation is a great way to widen your sphere of acquaintances, friends and possible colleagues.

As the great 18th-century writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.”

I’m glad I had a tune-up.

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve often wanted to join a book group. With young kids and crazy work/life I just haven’t made it a priority. I think it’s time to revisit my priorities for the new year. :)