Book Club Without the Book

When I was younger I was in a book club. I was the only member. We read the entire Goosebumps Series, the Boxcar Children and the Babysitters Club.


I never really liked discussing books with other people. I found the experience of reading a book and the way that each story made you feel to be a very personal thing. Even to this day, I still don’t love sitting around and debating which character is my favorite or what the author might have been implying when they wrote a particular passage. People debate for hours over whether or not Dumbledore from Harry Potter is gay, or if Edward or Jacob should end up with Bella from Twilight, or who is the most admirable character in Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart, John Galt, Francisco d’Anconia or Hank Rearden.

I joined a book club back in 2007. I went to the events for the food, wine and to chat with my friends. And while I read the books and certainly had opinions on them, I never felt like standing in front of the group and defending my perspective. Needless to say, my attendance in the book club wasn’t very good and I ended up dropping out after a year.

So when my friend, Erica, asked me to join her “dinner club”, I was immediately intrigued. What she wants to do is take the best of what book clubs have to offer (food, wine and good company) and remove the whole reading part. Genius! I knew there was a reason I liked this girl.

So while I certainly enjoy reading, I definitely think of it as an individual sport as opposed to the team sport that is eating, sipping wine and gossiping. So glad that I have friends who agree. Cheers to dinner club and all of the good memories that are bound to come out of it!


106 thoughts on “Book Club Without the Book

  1. I think it is good to admit what your group’s real purpose is. I’ve been in groups that were more for company than discussion of the book, and that is all well and good. However, it is disappointing to members who actually read the books (some didn’t) and who actually want to discuss it.

    Your friend has solved the problem.

  2. I totally agree with you! I remember being over the moon when I first discovered The Republic of Pemberley, in 1998 ~ an online community of Janeites who discuss Austen’s novels all day…. every day….

    Although I had my own opinions, and certainly enjoyed reading the perspectives of others, after a few months I began to ask myself:
    “How many times can we debate Darcy’s Pride and Lizzy’s Prejudice…?”

    Oooh, try 10+ years!! Eventually, I moved on… but they are still going strong in the forums, still debating exact key phrases and passages, and trying to read between Jane’s lines. I recently stopped in to read the latest posts, and had a strong case of deja vu. ROFL

    Like you, I’d rather talk about my favorite books in a relaxed setting, perhaps a blog, and leave the wine, food, and formality for dinner clubs! :)

  3. I love this idea. Book clubs are like Bunco to me … just give me good conversation, food and wine — cut the stilted deep conversation or ridiculously easy game!

    Of course, I’ll probably be hanged on high by Bunco and/or book lovers for this comment. No disrespect, I’m just a fan of a fun evening of socializing — no games or guided conversation required!


  4. I read all of those series when I was younger, and loved every one. While sometimes I do like discussing books, I have also experience some books that I’ll recommend but about which I keep my thoughts to myself!

  5. I agree! When reading books it must be up to the interpretation and imagination of the reader alone. No need to debate over something as we are all given the privilege to have our own unique experiences. DInner club sounds good by the way :)

  6. You’ve got some good reasoning going on here. I don’t remember if I read the whole Goosebumps series but I know I read most of them, and I remember Boxcar children but I don’t know if I read them all either.
    Anywho, I have never myself joined a book club not because I didn’t like it but because I never really saw myself in one. Plus, I feel that being in a book club would make you feel obligated to read the book and well, that’s just not my cup of tea.
    Now, a dinner club sounds pretty good. Will it always be at her house or will you make it more interesting and rotate around the club?

  7. as your mother i am just glad that you enjoy reading:) although i belong to a book club, i totally agree that reading is quite personal. the idea of a dinner club sounds good but then i would have to cook instead of reading!! congratulations on being freshly pressed

  8. Me? I’m a weird one, I guess. I love to get into a deep, amateur-psychologist-type conversation about an interesting character… for instance, I’ll defend to the death that Scarlett O’Hara is one of the least-understood figures in literature :-) . But I’m only comfortable talking freely under three conditions: 1) it has to be with someone I know well and am comfortable with, 2) the book has to be just a launching point for wherever the conversation naturally goes, and 3) there’s gotta be a cocktail involved. Good times!

  9. I do enjoy discussing the book but then again I tend to read the book for book club. However, a dinner club sounds like fun. Trying out different recipes is always fun – to me.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  10. I like the idea of book discussions, but I’ve never actually liked one. Mainly it’s a bunch of people who aren’t much smarter than me talking about the way the book made them feel. The best book discussion I sat in on was one where a lit professor participated; she brought something to the table. I also have thought that a book club should stretch you a bit, make you read genres you might usually avoid. But really, they’re all mostly chick-lit.

    And yeah, cocktails help most everything.

  11. Being the admin of a very chill book club, I’m inclined to go against the tide here on the feeling of book clubs ^_^ But I do agree that it gets droll when the purpose of a book club is to read one book per month and come together and discuss it, which is why our format is quite different from that.

    Marie, I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on Scarlett O’Hara :D

    1. I have a list of things to do before I turn 30, which is quickly approaching, and one of those things is “read the bible.” While I am not personally very religious, the Bible is an important piece of litereature. I can’t tell you how many times in English classes we would discuss “biblical references” and I had no idea what they were talking about! I would definitely encourage you to read some other books as well though of my recent reads, I found The Help to be incredible. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Book clubs and dinner clubs both sound fantastic. I’ve never been in either and I’ve always wanted to be in a book club. I usually end up finding a friend to talk about the book with by making them read it. A book club might be better. More organized. Nice post!

  13. I have tried all sorts of clubs and associations, and I have come to realise- I am just not a club person….period. However, the idea of regularly gathering with close friends over some food and vino is the one club I could join…lol. When I was growing up I was obsessed with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books… I remember laying in bed sick and being completely transported to the adventures… so much so I did not mind feeling unwell at all…lol!

  14. Loved this post.

    My book club has been making the subtle transition to TV club. We’re literally going from Ulysses to Sons of Anarchy. But, I realized that I like talking with my friends about pretty much anything – so I guess on some level BC was successful.

  15. Very interesting post. Great opening lines, by the way: “When I was younger I was in a book club. I was the only member. We read the entire Goosebumps Series, the Boxcar Children and the Babysitters Club.”
    You could start a novel with those lines and it would be a best seller.

    I also agree with sentiments expressed. I think I am in a one-person book club too. I read books that very few people read, and seldom agree with people on books – and so I try not to discuss books with anyone.

  16. I hate book clubs! Hate’s a strong word- but there are just too many emotions at those things. How does the dinner club work? Does everyone take turns hosting a dinner and providing everything?

    Have you ever thought about doing a virtual book club? I had a roommate who tried to start a blog where everyone could post reviews about books but she didn’t harp on people to post so it died… I like the idea but I’m not sure what formula would work.

  17. The best book group is one where everyone agrees on what it’s supposed to be! I was in one a few years ago where it was just an excuse for friends to get together, mention the book briefly, and move on to other things. It was a nice group, but I really wanted to talk about the books — not just “feelings” and not dry dissection, but real discussion of what the author was trying to do, how well we thought it worked, what it meant to us, historical or other outside perspectives, etc. When I brought this up (diplomatically, I assure you!), I was told that book groups are a nice way to get to know each other. Yes, I agree. But to me, it’s a way to get to know each other through books, not glancing reference to them and then on to dinner. If that’s what they wanted, why call it a book group?

  18. Oh what a great idea! Those are definitely the best part of book clubs. The last (and only) book club I was in disbanded because of Seabiscuit. It took me a year to finish that book, one guy 2 years and some never finished. I do wish we still got together and drank wine though. This gives me renewed hope!!

    Thank you for the post.

  19. Wow! I haven’t thought of the Boxcar Children in so long! I also religiously read Goosebumps and Babysitters Club! What a walk down memory lane. I’ve never been part of a book club, although I’ve always wanted to join one because I thought we sit around talking about our favourite parts from the book, but I would hate to have to defend my perspective, ugh.

  20. That’s such a great idea – I’d love to join a dinner club! My degree was in English literature so I’ve grown fairly used to talking about books with groups of other students in seminars, but those discussions would of course always focus more on literary theory, stylistic technique, etc etc. The types of novels and the areas of discussion that happen in book clubs I think is a very different kettle of fish, and I agree that talking about which characters are the more likeable and who should end up with who is not something I’ve ever really wanted to talk about with anyone. As you say, reading is such a personal thing, and particularly so when reading for pleasure rather than reading academically. I think if I started to have an in-depth conversation about the ins and outs of the Harry Potter series with anyone, it would make me feel like I was in a university seminar – and that would somehow ruin the magic of it.

    PS. I absolutely LOVED the Goosebumps series when I was a kid! Loved your post – congrats on getting on Freshly Pressed :)

  21. Wow, who knew how dated we would be for reading those series – people born in the 80s who grew up at the peak of consumerism in the 1990s. We were a unique demographic. I concur with what you say about not feeling the need to debate or defend a particular aspect of a story or character analysis. They are what they are. We must leave the discourse and debate to Aquarians and Geminis. =)

  22. I 100% agree with you, AND I read all the same childhood books as you. When I was 10 I moved from Brazil to the United States and left all my beloved books behind. I recently moved back and found all my childhood books in a box! It’s been wonderful re-reading them, even thought I’m 22 now. Anne of Green Gables, Boxcar Kids, and all the Little House on the Prairie books have been so much fun to get to know again.

    It’s nice to see there are so many lifetime-avid readers out there. Thanks for this very lovely post!

  23. I agree with you about book clubs–I also don’t like sharing my ideas since I find that even some of my closest friends don’t get what I got. Or else, I don’t get what they see. Either way, it doesn’t make me feel I want to read the book again, so we might as well just eat. That’s a great alternative. Thanks for the idea!

  24. Haha love it! So honest and true. Plus, you read the Babysitters Club as well. What about Sweet Valley? That was a great series too. But no point discussing books here.

  25. Great blog post. I agree that reading a book really is a personal experience. I too hate sitting around discussing my views with other people on the books I’ve read, or listening to someone trying to convince me that their way of thinking about a scenario or storyline or a character is the correct view. Reading a book is about using your imagination and forming your own ideas and opinions on the books. All I want is for someone to give me good recommendations for books, the rest I’d rather keep to myself!

  26. Awesome! I really like this idea of “a book club without a book”, I just feel like debating -of anything- is simply an oportunity to give vent to your frustration vs. all world’s things you disagree with. IDN It’s simply uncomfortable to sit with a group of people and argument what do u think, everybody has an opinion. Why is that so hard to understand?

    Congratulations, I’ve enjoyed very much this entry ;)

  27. Nice post, and congrats for being Freshly-Pressed =D

    I agree with you, reading is for personal fun. I teach Reading-Writing class for Secondary & High School level, but I always remind my students that reading should be for fun, so that’s why when it comes to free-reading time at the library (once a week), I would let them choose the books and read for fun and enjoyment. I told them I would not ask for any comments or summary; just read and enjoy. I found the result was quite amazing. They really enjoy reading.

    So yeah, there are times when you need to review and discuss about the book you read, but most of the time, you just read it and have fun with it :D

  28. This post made me chuckle. I invited 4 friends to start a supper club with me a few years ago, and one of them, a librarian, asked excitedly if we would read books. I said, “No! We’re going to cook, eat and talk about food.” I love to read and I love discussing books with like-minded folks. However, I like to choose what I read and read at my own pace. Book clubs seem like hard work to me, and I’m not interested at all. Have fun with your dinner club!

  29. I can go both ways on this. I do think reading a book is highly personal experience and I enjoy keeping my own interpretation of a book pure. But sometimes I read a book that’s so good that I can’t help but want to share my thoughts about it with others and also hear what they think of it. (Granted, I will say, it’s much more enjoyable to talk about a book with someone who has generally the same opinion of it as you do.) It’s a toss up.

    Either way, dinner club sounds awesome! I love food :)

  30. I think the only way I could join a book club is if it were on a non-fiction book. Stories to me are like you said, they’re personal. Once you start picking them apart, it’s like they lose their magic. I’d rather savor the story than dissect it.

    A dinner club sounds AMAZING though. :)

  31. I recently joined a book club and we’re doing a “share your thoughts on your fave book” thing. We want it to be free flowing so that there won’t be any pressure on anyone. I guess it’s almost like a dinner night. I agree about not wanting to defend what you think. What matters is what the book meant to me, not what they think or what the author intended. ;)

  32. OMG….The Goosebumps series? thats classic….i read those too when i was in middle school now that i’m 20 years and move to Nicholas Sparks…….btw nice blog you have! congrats on made it to the freshly pressed =D

  33. I’ve always been curious about Book Clubs – almost enough to actually join one but I never did. Reading this, it doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy doing because I think I’d get pretty frustrated with the discussions (as those mentioned above). I’d probably drive myself nuts. Haha Your friend definitely has it right with the dinner club! Congrats on being Fresh :)

  34. You said it right… we may have opinions about reading a book. But there is no need to share it with others. We can say whether we liked the book or not, so that others may get inspired to read it. There’s no need for discussing any more.

  35. I love to read, but I’m not sure I get much value from other’s opinions of the subject matter – after all it’s a selfish pleasure, tucking up with a book and devouring your own adventure unlike a movie much of what comes from a book comes from the reader as well as the author.

    Dinner Club sounds like a much better idea.

  36. Congrats on being freshly-pressed. I totally agree, reading and analyzing a book is completely personal and I really prefer the concept of a dinner club.

  37. Dinner club, Yay! That sounds like a really nice idea. I agree about not having to defend your perspective.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed. Love your writing.


  38. It seems I might be going against the tide a little here, but I actually really enjoy discussions about books that I’ve read – when my boyfriend finally read The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, one of my favourite books, I was really excited because then I could talk to him about it! However, I also love the idea of Dinner Club :) Well done on being Pressed!

  39. Id love to hear what you had to say about Stone Junction by Jim Dodge, if you have read it. No one i know has, and would be very intrested in haveing a discussion over that novel

  40. congratulations.. :) you make it at the freshly pressed.. you’re now be one of the center of envy for sure..
    great post! think i might join a book club aswell :)

  41. My experience of book clubs tells me that most of them discuss the book for roughly 5 minutes before moving on to much gossiping and wine drinking!
    I agree with you in that solitary reflection is the best policy after finishing a good book. The best books affect us ways that can’t often be explained and to try to do so does not do them justice. Read, enjoy, don’t pick the bones!

  42. Books are such subjective material that I can’t blame you. I’ve discussed books during the course of my tertiary studies but that was more in the academical literary criticism style which would be dull for a book club. But I think debating who should have got with who is irrelevant anyway – that would only be up to the author and perhaps their editor. Sometimes books are for personal pleasure only.

  43. I would love to join a book club mainly because I enjoy hearing other people’s views. My only drawback is the idea of having to read something that really doesn’t appeal. I much prefer having a nive evening with friends when we discuss books we’ve read, plays, films and exhibitions we’ve seen and music we’ve heard, exchanging tips and thoughts.
    The other great thing about it is I don’t feel bad if I haven’t had a chance to finish the book in time. Have fun with your dinner club.

  44. totally agree! I am estranged from two book clubs. I formed my own cooking club check it out at I’m having more fun.

    I was just thinking this morning about several women from book club who made cutting remarks that have stuck with me in a negative way all these years later. They thought their thoughts were how everyone thought. I don’t miss it at all.

  45. I think reading books is something you should do on your own…
    The dinner club is a very interesting idea! I would like to participate in these activites too!

  46. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I disagree. Maybe because i’ve studied english lit in my undergrad and now a masters program… but I LOVE discussing. Especially with my friends. While i’m reading it’s personal. I don’t want to discuss until i’m done and we don’t really talk about “fav character” kinda stuff. We talk about the techniques of the book like if the story is linear or broken up (flashbacks and why) and punctuation use… OKAY i’m officially a nerd… and never used to be. Hahaha good read!

  47. My friends and I have a book club….where we spend about 20 minutes (usually at the very end of the night) talking about the book. I think there are times we spend more time picking out the next book and deciding where/when to have book club than we do talking about the book!

    That being said, we all LOVE to read, we just like to gossip more ;-).

  48. 13 years and going strong! My book club brings books that have been read during the month and puts them in a pile in the middle of the table. Everyone chooses (or not) books that look interesting to them. We then move on to the “food, wine and good company” portion of the evening. At the end of the night we do “discuss” what restaurant we want to meet at the next month. I love my book club!

  49. Dinner club! Love it! I adore reading, and have been in a couple book clubs with my friends. I don’t mind discussing the characters and the writing and the plot, but I do find it not as enjoyable when I am the only person with a certain opinion and everyone else tries to make me see differently. After a while, the clubs dissolved, and I have gone to reading alone and then writing reports and reviews on them for my own personal use. This gives me the best of both worlds. But I do like the dinner club idea. I love it, actually. =D

  50. I’ve always wanted to try a book club b/c I think it would be exciting to debate certain things, but @ the same time I understand where you are coming from. I think it probably has to do with the people in the club & whether or not you can stand them :-)

  51. I’ve only been in one book club, and didn’t stay very long. I was shocked to discover that most people hadn’t read the book and the group had no interest in discussing it. Which, like what you’re saying, would be fine, if they did not call it a book club! I felt seduced and abandoned, and left within a few months.

  52. I agree with you: people are very exhaustive when it comes to prattling on about their opinions of a given book. Kind of sucks the enjoyment out of reading in the first place. Congrats on getting ‘pressed’!

  53. My book group did the same thing after 6 years of reading together. We had a couple of membership changes, someone found herself in house remodeling hell with no free time, another woman changed careers, and a long-standing member seemed to not like the rest of us so much anymore but wanted to keep reading. So we dissolved the book club, formed the dinner group, the unhappy member dropped out, and we added a friend who the rest of us liked but who never wanted to read with us. We still recommend books to each other, but we’re no longer obligated to read other people’s suggestions. I have a blog with book reviews, and now it’s all books I want to read.

  54. Interesting, but I disagree. Me and my friends adore book sand our discussions are always of the form of what we think of the books and what we enjoyed. The debates generally were technical/what-if-plot oriented and it was quite fun actually.
    Indeed, it’s a personal thing, but sometimes, it’s good to hear a different POV.
    But, I’ve never been in book clubs and I don’t know that experience.

  55. I have a book club that over time became more of a “dinner club.” I do love discussing books with people, but over time, busy schedules got in the way of every one in the group being able to read books at the same pace and we realized we were just using the weekly meeting to talk about life in general and deepen our friendships. We still refer to each other as the “book group,” but it’s come to mean a group of close knit friends who mean a lot to each other, rather than a weekly meeting centered on a book discussion.

  56. I loved the Babysitters’ Club Books. My mum always pre-ordered them for me at the little bookstore in the mall. Does it get more awesome? No, it does not. (I’m going to have to find them for my daughter, now.)
    I joined a book club a few years ago. We all read the same book, and then meet for coffee, wherein there is a remote possibility that the book will get discussed. It’s more about shared experiences and a legitimate sounding excuse to sit around and gab for a few hours over good food and better drinks. Maybe we should re-name it :)

  57. Its a great idea. We used to do dinner club in an apt building i lived in many years ago. once a month we would eat out and once a year we had a progressive dinner party. 10 courses and each was had in a different apartment. It took hours and because none of had to drive we could eat drink and be merry. You post brought back some very happy memories

  58. I’ve never been a part of a book club and I don’t know if I’d like delving into such discussions either (most of my contributions would be more like, “I liked this passage,” etc.). What I do love is finding out what other people are reading and getting recommendations and sharing what I’m reading. You said it well–it’s an individual sport rather than team. Thanks for sharing!

  59. Book clubs are almost gone nowadays. I’ve been wanting to start one but no luck. I guess most people my age would rather do anything but read. It’s really sad when you think about it.


  60. I think book clubs are still prevalent in Portland OR, and/or small rural/underground-esque hole in the walls.
    Sounds like this organized communal groupie requiring an excuse to eat, lay back, and socialize needs to head a movement starting with the east coast where it’s frowned upon. Literally, if only I could legitimize (and people embrace!) this eating and socializing aspect, so foreign to some, my goodness how chill people would become! Whereas others would say “Oh ya that’s called hanging out” ;D I’m liking the balance

  61. I just joined a dinner club a year ago. It was a pretty dicey year to be honest. I think it takes a while for people to feel comfortable with each other and there were definitely some personal politics that made things…um, interesting. Anyway, good luck with your dinner club! I love it now and I hope your group doesn’t have the same growing pains that ours did. :)

  62. Genius! I’ve been in book clubs playing the role of the massive failure because I never read fast enough to keep up with a book a month. Maybe because I had a baby at home and never slept. But this is such a good idea that I think I’ll start one of my own.

  63. Sounds just like my mum’s “book club”. 20 minutes of book-chat, usually slagging off the book because all the choices are pretty horrific. Then copious amounts of wine, cheese and most importantly, local gossip. I want to join ha!

  64. I always felt the same way about book clubs, too. The dinner club idea seems like a pretty good one, though I think that I would still have a difficult time making it to all of the get-togethers; not because I am so busy, but because I am an introvert and a little socialization goes a long way with me. :P The food part would be tempting, though…

  65. I agree, especially about the personal nature of reading and stories – although I’m somewhat argumentative so I like the idea of arguing about characters.

    Also, I LOVE the Boxcar Children and want to reread ALL of them :-D

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