Book groups and the importance of talking about stories

CakeFri 2nd March 2018

I have been lucky enough to be part of a writing group for nearly five years and they have provided me with so many ideas as well as support. The idea that there are readers and writers that I can connect and spend time with made a big difference to me when the children were younger and makes even more difference to me now as I navigate these first few months as a newly published author.

Groups built on shared interests are so vital. They appeal to, and develop, our sense of ourselves as well as provide much needed social support and connection.

A book group is, like a writing group, unique in that it combines both the private and the social. Reading is a solitary exercise and yet talking about a book is a communal one. The two things work beautifully together in that we all bring our personal impression of the story to the group. I gain so much pleasure from spending time talking about the books I love with people who are also enthusiastic about reading.

In Appetite, Naomi uses her book group as an excuse to get out of the house. It is, for her, a socially acceptable reason for being out and, remembering the judgement that used to accompany my being out on my own in the evenings a few years ago, it is a feeling I shared. In the “back story” of the novel, the group are unhelpful to her because they choose and read fiction which avoid personal, important issues. They are books that “everyone” is reading or which are “of the moment” and which do not provide any opportunity to discuss anything truly difficult or meaningful.

The stories of others help us make sense of our own 

If Naomi had been part of a group where she had had the chance to talk about and hear different opinions and also to see and hear different stories then maybe she would have had an opportunity to see more clearly what she was doing and why. We need lots of different stories and a genuine conversation about them to help us make sense of our lives and our own stories. The more widely we read, the more ideas we are encouraged to consider. The further we cast for ideas and experiences then the richer our own experience of, and understanding of our own experience, becomes. We can both experience a new and broader range of feelings as well as, potentially, gaining a different view of our own. Reading and the experience of a great book group give us this.

What do you love most about your book group and why? I’d love to know…