December 11, 2008
Who Did You Hit with That Book Club?
Would you pay $250 a year to hire the services of a book-group facilitator? Apparently that's just what some New Yorkers are doing. A New York Times article chronicles the troubles many book groups have--mostly with members who monopolize conversation or selecting books the whole group can agree to.
My wife and I have been part of a book group for over a year now. It was inspired by some friends who saw The Jane Austen Book Club and thought it would be fun. Five couples, mostly neighbors, meet five times a year. For each meeting a different couple selects the book we discuss, hosts the group and leads the discussion.
In addition, it costs us nothing. Our local library gets ten copies of each book on loan from other libraries.
In the course of our first year we read
It's been a good mix of fiction and nonfiction with a nice dose of Chicago-themed books. Interestingly, while each couple can choose one book a year, members have not taken this an an opportunity to impose their book taste on the group. Actually, the tendency has been to think quite hard about what books most everyone in the group would appreciate.
Sure, we could probably have more balanced discussions with quieter ones speaking up more and those of use happy to hear our own voices backing off more. (OK, I confess.) Maybe a facilitator could help us with that. But for $250 a year? As my colleague Gary Deddo said, "Only in New York City! Groups that are willing to pay for one and probably couldn't function without it. Do facilitators have to be psychiatrists as well?"