29 May
Books Are For Reading!

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I belong to a book club with six other women. It’s a fun group, except for one woman who often doesn’t read the book and yet manages to have many opinions on it based on “things I heard online” about it. She is very vocal and often monopolizes the discussion with things that are only tangentially related to the books. Is there a way to tell her to either read the book or shut up?

Signed,

It’s Book Club, Not Listen To You Talk Club

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Dear Book Club,

I am currently in my third book club, the current one having lasted over five years, so I feel very qualified to answer your question. Well, that, and I once bought a book with one of those “Oprah’s Book Club” stickers on the cover, so I’m pretty sure I know what I’m talking about.

Not reading the book is pretty much the greatest no-no in book group, and I’ve done it more times than I can count. (I’m not very mathy.) I always mean to read the books, but sometimes it’s just not my cup of absinthe (Wolfe Hall) or was just too heavy to lug around in the pre-Kindle days (2666) or I’ve run out of time and didn’t finish the book.

Although sitting out the book group is certainly an option, like most normal women, the book group serves a dual purpose for me—literature and friendship. Triple, if you count wine. So to be deprived of friendship (and wine) just because I did not read the book seems borderline unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. So I go to book group, confess my sins and participate as much or as little as I can. If there is something in what I’d read to contribute to the discussion, I certainly chime in. But I don’t dominate the discussion and I certainly don’t relate extraneous information.

If only more people could be like me: a model non-reading book club member.

Since this woman’s methods are annoying you, you need to speak up. I assume you’ve already tried the gentle steering of the conversation to “let’s get back to the book” or quoting from specific passages as a subtle hint that the discussion has its origin in the text. If she has not picked up on hints, a “let’s agree that in order to participate in the discussion, you need have read the book first” seems like a reasonable approach.

Perhaps she will realize that would be more comfortable in a book group filled with others who have not read the book so that everyone could be coming from a similar place of ignorance. Sigh. Now I’m all misty eyed and nostalgic for my high school Melville class.

Or maybe she’ll realize that book group means having to read the book. Who knows, she may even pick one up and enjoy it. I read somewhere that books broaden one’s horizons.

Club books, not seals!

Marinka

8 Responses to “Books Are For Reading!”

05.29.12#1

Comment by Kelly.

I’m pretty sure you are in a book club with my neighbor.

05.29.12#2

Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

What about talking about it with other group members, so as to see if they feel the same as you? Then you could all pluck up the courage to ask her to read the books, or else shut up.

Good luck! 🙂

05.29.12#3

Comment by rojopaul.

And this is why I live vicariously through others – I read the books from my friend’s book club so I get to read good books without having to go to the actual book club meeting. Win-win!

05.29.12#4

Comment by MommyTime.

Book club pop quiz? Only people who score 80% or better get to talk? (It’s like freshman lit all over again.) “Only one comment per glass of wine” rule? (It doesn’t stop her talking, but does mean you’ll get to the point where you don’t care a whole lot sooner.) Host the bookclub at your house and try a “ninth grade English class” theme, where everyone has to raise their hands to talk, and you call on them? (Just don’t call on her.)

Or, you could just be honest. Phone her and say you know that it’s sometimes hard to read the book in time for you too, and you don’t want to miss out on her company and social time, but sometimes when she talks about things that aren’t in the book, it’s a little distracting.

05.29.12#5

Comment by Angie Uncovered.

Or completely screw her over by feeding her misinformation about the book to spread to her other friends so she looks like an even bigger idiot?

Connie Reply:

Oh I like this one 🙂

06.03.12#6

Comment by janine.

I attend a book club where we all bring different books and describe them, then we swap and eventually can have discussions about the books that some or all of us have read. Still wine, still literary, but no pressure 🙂

08.16.12#7

Comment by Why are You Watering My Plants? | The Mouthy Housewives.

[…] them. My friend did that when she was at my house and I thought it was weird but didn’t say anything. Should I […]

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