Having settled into my new surroundings one of the things that I wanted to do was expand my circle of local friends. I chose where I was going to move to quite deliberately because I already knew a good number of people living here, but they are all from within a certain circle and I thought it would be good to broaden that out. The obvious way forward was to join a(nother) book group, but there were certain problems with that. Firstly, the local library group already has sixteen members, which I consider too many for a decent discussion, and secondly, I belong to two groups which read and discuss specified novels and having two books a month dictated by other people’s tastes is quite enough, thank you. So, I approached the library about starting a different sort of group, although one that I have had experience of before, and this evening we are to have our first meeting.
The idea is very simple. We (no more than a dozen or it becomes impractical) will meet once a month to each talk briefly about what we have read since the last time we got together. There are all sorts of benefits to this sort of group. No one feels any pressure to read something they are not enjoying. There isn’t the problem of everyone trying to get hold of limited library copies of the same book. (The librarians particularly like that aspect!) You can come along even if you are still struggling with whatever you were trying to read last month and simply comment on your progress or lack thereof. It doesn’t matter how you have accessed the book; there is one young woman interested who is blind and always uses audiobooks. And, perhaps most importantly, you get to ‘meet’ new authors that you might never otherwise have thought of reading. This is how I first came across writers like Patrick Gale and Richard Russo, now both ‘must reads’ as far as I’m concerned. This latter point can mean that even though we don’t set out to be a discussion group discussion will often arise because over time a number of people will have read the same book and inevitably have a variety of views about it. (Note to self: don’t damn anything outright, it might be someone else’s favourite ever book and you may never see them again.)
I have no idea how many are going to turn up this evening. We have advertised the group in the library and in the local newspapers. (The Bears were very aggrieved that only my picture turned up in the Bromsgrove Standard; they thought it would have been much more effective if they had been included as well, probably quite rightly.) I am expecting at least four but the librarians say they have had several enquiries from people who haven’t spoken to me so it could be that we are full from the word go. I shall just have to wait and see. Further reports as the week progresses!