By Judith Martin
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been part of a monthly book club for the past five years. We all get along well, but it has been a growing problem that some people do not regularly read the books. The personal chitchat at the beginning of each session seems to grow longer each month, and those who don’t read the selections are quick to divert the group’s attention to other topics. Sometimes we hardly discuss the book at all.
I don’t want to be a disciplinarian, nor do I want book club to seem like homework, but I also don’t want us to forget why we formed the group in the first place. What should I do?
GENTLE READER: Join another book club.
Miss Manners does not mean to disparage the one you are in or even to suggest that you leave it if you like the members. All book clubs have both discussion and social chatter. It is not as though reading, like playing softball, requires rounding up other people.
Different clubs have different mixtures of the two, ranging from a serious focus on books to the books being only an excuse to get together. And while one or two members who divert a discussion can be gently called to order, it sounds as if the others in your group are happy with the changed tone. Rather than hector people, you could ask for a re-evaluation of purpose, which would neither target individuals nor exclude the social aspect. Or you could join the chatter, bubbling over to them about the literary fun you are having in another book group.
Copyright 2006 by Judith Martin