The Oxford Comma Appreciation Society (OCAS) met for the second time. The chosen author and book was Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
We don’t have a set format for discussion: sometimes it just opens with, “Who finished? Did you like it? What was your favorite part?” But the discussion delves into authorial intent, personal interpretations, relevance to current events, and my favorite, favorite quotations. We go around the table and each share one of our favorite passages.
I have never belonged to a book club before: mainly because I’m so picky that I only want to read books I’m interested in. However, the idea of planning a time to sit around and talk about a particular book for a set time is pretty remarkable. Roughly a dozen people procure a copy of the book, read it, and most importantly, meet up at an agreed time and place.
I’m no longer in school so I read only books I have chosen (with the occasional gifts of kind friends). Now that I no longer have required reading, it’s important to read new authors and have dialogues about them. My books to be read pile is influenced by only myself. I cannot grow as a reader if I do not look at literature from another person’s point of view. I never would have discovered Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie if it weren’t for OCAS. I really love Joan Didion, but of recent, I had stopped reading essays. So I happily read them and realized how much I missed reading essays.
It’s not enough to just read a book, one needs to think about it, analyze it, and hopefully learn something from it. Participating in a book club forces one to think deeper about the reading. It facilitates a dialogue and creates a camaraderie around books. When one reads alone, it is often a singular dialogue between author and reader (or my favorite—dual dialogues between author and reader, and the unreliable narrator and reader). It is this solitary act, without any external thoughts and interpretations that leads to a sort of blind reading.
By blind reading, I mean reading without any real analysis of the writing. Often times books are looked at as only entertainment. But there’s an art to story telling. How are the scenes broken down? How does the author move the narrative along? Do I care about the characters that might die? For me, if I don’t care that a character dies, then that’s poor writing. How can I care about an apocalypse if none of the character are redeemable?
So here’s to thoughtful reading and an intentional celebration of reading.