By Pam Kenney
I've been asked many times to join book clubs, and my initial reluctance, and final decision to decline, have always surprised friends and acquaintances. After all, I love to read, spend much too much time in libraries and bookstores, and am not shy about expressing my views about the war in Iraq or healthcare legislation.
I've thought a lot about my hesitation to discuss books publicly, and I believe I don't enjoy the discussion format because I find it uncharacteristically difficult to articulate and communicate my thoughts about a book to a group. For one thing, a book's "theme" sometimes becomes secondary to me when I'm reading. I love language and words and frequently find myself so caught up in the way the author writes that I ignore the story line altogether. I can spend ten minutes mentally celebrating a turn of phrase by Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro, for example, marveling at their ability to use the English language to express the exact nuance of meaning they intend.
Discussing a book as part of a group interrupts and disturbs my inner dialogue, too. The books I most enjoy allow me to ponder at length, and often revise, my personal value system. When I read Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards, I spent hours re-evaluating my beliefs about right and wrong and the importance of self-respect. Somehow, talking with others about the feelings associated with such insights makes me uncomfortable.
Book clubs can help many people find meaning in the monthly selections they might not have gleaned on their own. For me, however, private contemplation is more satisfying, so I'll continue my love affair with books on my own.