That Awkward Moment: Book Club Fail

February 21, 2014 Book Club 26

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Tonight I’m meeting with my neighborhood book club, which I’ve not-so-cleverly dubbed “My Neighbors are Better than Your Neighbors.” I’m super lucky to have a great group of gals to hang out and talk books with. This month, one of our members (who also happens to be my Girl Scout cookie hookup) chose The Giant’s House: A Romance by Elizabeth McCracken.

thegiant'shouseIn 1950s Cape Cod, small town librarian Peggy Cort feels like she’s passed her expiration date. She’s resigned herself to a small life, when a very large boy walks into it. James Sweatt is 6 foot 2 inches at 11 years old, and nowhere near finished growing. The two strike up the sort of connection only outsiders can truly understand, and their lives are never the same. And there’s maybe kind-of-sort-of some romance, depending on your perspective.

I’ll just come right out and say it: this book wasn’t for me. The prose is perfectly lovely, and to a different reader this book might be fantastic. But for me? Meh. Yes, “meh.” Charleen of Cheap Thrills Book Blog (who is more eloquent than I) wrote a fantastic piece on the merits of using the term “meh” that you should read. (Really, click on it. HERE.) Writing a review of a book that hits you upside the head with all the meh is crazy hard to do. I’m stuck in a gray area of stumbling over words, and it makes me all twitchy.

To be fair, I haven’t spoken to any of the ladies to hear how they felt about the book, other than a couple of vague “this is really depressing” text messages. Knowing them as I do, though, I can’t imagine this is a new favorite for any of them. bookclubflopActually, knowing them as I do, I’d be surprised if many of them even finished this one…

Choosing the book for a book club can be nerve wracking. It’s not just about choosing a “good” or “bad” book, it’s about choosing a good fit for your group. If your book club is really into dystopian YA, busting in with some highbrow literary fiction probably isn’t going to go over too well. Nobody wants to read the same thing all the time, (okay, well *I* don’t want to read the same thing all the time.) That’s part of the beauty of a book club, reading something you might not have picked up on your own. That said, everything new carries ALL THE POSSIBILITIES. You could love it, feel like a giant ball of “meh,” or rage at the heavens that such a piece of literature was ever brought into being.

Because I’m not much of a re-reader, whenever I make a book club selection, I typically go in blind. These days I’ve got a pretty hefty advantage. I read a lot of book blogs, and have a killer group of blogger friends who know my taste well enough to help me make my decisions. But you know something? Sometimes it doesn’t even MATTER that you’ve researched and read reviews and polled your pals. You really don’t know if something is going to work for you (and your book club) until you read the darn thing!

I’m not going to give my Girl-Scout-Cookie-Hookup too much crap for picking a book I didn’t like. Then I’d have to go out and make another friend with a Girl Scout daughter, and I just don’t have the energy to go hunting one down. Not to mention, one of these days IT MIGHT BE ME responsible for the book club bomb. It’s cool, Emily. I still love you!

What about you, Bookworms? Do you feel pressure choosing books for your book clubs? Is my anxiety a reflection of my own inner turmoil or do y’all deal with this too? 


26 Responses to “That Awkward Moment: Book Club Fail”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I feel totally anxious when it’s my turn to choose books for book club. BUT, I will say that my book club instituted a sensible system for choosing books — whoever hated the most recent book the most gets to choose for next time, and that person picks THREE books, and everyone votes. Then even if your pick ends up being a book that nobody liked, it’s still okay because the majority of the other people also voted for it. :p

  2. Shannon @ River City Reading

    Bummer that you didn’t like this! I’ve heard so many great things, I just recently bought a used copy.

    My book club chooses as a group at the end of each meeting, but I usually feel a ton of pressure because I’m “the blogger”. So, unless someone has something they’ve been dying to read, it ends up being “Oooh, Shannon, what are we reading this month!?!” Arg!

    I’m usually okay with a book that causes some tension or that a few people hate because that gets us talking, but sometimes meh books can be the worst! Because there’s just nothing to talk about. Hope there’s enough wine to get you gabbing 🙂

    • Words For Worms

      I think I might be bad at appreciating literary fiction… I rarely seem to get along well with things that have won awards. You might really like it.

      I think there might be enough here to get us talking because there were some elements that were a little… shall I say scandalous? A little. Not a lot. Gray areas and whatnot.

  3. Darlene

    I do feel a small amount of pressure in choosing for the book club,
    We try to be thoughtful about what most of us would enjoy.
    I’ve picked winners and doozies. It’s like that.
    Most people in my club crave happy stories, cause life is heavy, but my picks always seem to be sad. (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Book Thief, Deep River)
    We’re considering inviting a man to join us, just temporarily, to mix things up.

    • Words For Worms

      They invited a man to join in The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. It worked well for them, though, since they were only reading Jane Austen it wasn’t exactly difficult to choose books…

  4. Ashley F

    I got squigged out the second I read “A Romance” and “11 year old boy”.

    My book club picks some really random stuff. My biggest beef is that they’re constantly picking best sellers from a few years ago which means a handful of us have probably already read them. In the last year we’ve done Room, The Glass Castle, Tuesday’s with Morrie….all of which I had already read. I mean I enjoy getting together for dinner once a month and just chatting but it would be nice if that happened while we talk about a book I hadn’t read like 3 years ago.

    • Words For Worms

      Nothing actually happens that’s pedophiley… Just gray area creepy. This is the first book I’ve actually had to read for book club in months. I don’t object when they pick something I’ve already read because, well, I’ve read a lot. If I’m the only one that’s already read it, it doesn’t seem worth finding an alternative.

      • Ashley F

        Agreed, I read a lot, so if I was the only one, but I’m not. And it’s frustrating. I think I’ve only had to read 3 or 4 books all year for my book club.

  5. Lillian

    I used to make myself finish the meh books, but now I don’t. Now I just hand them off to someone. Life is too short to finish the meh…I’d rather be mad a book was so horrible than just feel meh about it. Yay for using meh as often as possible in a comment.

    P.S. Never make the cookie provider mad…never!

  6. kristinshafel

    I’m in a book group at the library, and the leader (a library employee) asked us for suggestions and came up with his own at the beginning of the year, we voted, and then it’s set for the year. Last month, the book was one I LOVED but no one else was really into… that was the Vince Lombardi book, and being in Kansas City and NOT in Wisconsin, I can certainly understand why I as a Wisconsinite and Packers fan loved it and no one else did. And I didn’t even suggest it!!! This bio was really dense and a chunkster—a little too heavy for a book group, I think, but I’m really happy I got to read it finally 😀

  7. Charleen

    Thanks for the shoutout!

    Yeah, meh books are the worst, especially if they’re supposed to be discussion starters. Who knows, maybe someone loved it and will get you talking. Failing that, wine.

    I’ve never been part of a real-life book club, so I don’t know the pressure firsthand. But considering I get all nervous if someone starts asking what we should do for dinner, I would not be good at it. (That doesn’t apply to my husband, I’m fine being decisive if he’s the only one affected by my decision. But in groups of friends it’s pretty much a running joke that I have no opinion about anything.)

  8. Lady @ Snail on the Wall

    This week was my turn to pick for my book club, so I’m in totally in touch! I turn into a bundle of nerves right before it’s my time to choose, and I spent all last week starting new books, visiting everyone’s book blogs, and running off to the bookstore to browse, all in search of the “perfect” pick—which we all know doesn’t exist, since you can’t please all of the people all of the time. We’re going to be reading Orange Is the New Black, which I know will spark lots of heated discussion. It seems better to get a book people might either love or hate than one that will make them say “meh.”

  9. Isi

    I would be very stressed if I had to pick up a book for a group of people to read!! You can’t like everything, so here we have an example 😉
    By the way, I would have given it a try by its cover!

  10. C.J.

    Ha ha … I’ve had similar experiences with book club choices. One book was so bad, I didn’t go to the meeting because I didn’t want to feel awkward talking about all the weird stuff in the book.

  11. Megan M.

    Huh. I read a good review of this somewhere because I put it on my to-read list on Amazon. I thought it was you, but I guess not!

    I get crazy nervous when it’s my job to pick the entertainment. Usually that means I’ve decided what movie my husband and I will watch. There’s a refrain in my head – “Please let this be good. Please let this be good. DON’T let this be weird!” I would be a wreck if I made a choice for a book club that turned out to be a dud!

  12. April @ The Steadfast Reader

    I lose at book clubs for several reasons.

    The last time I tried an in person book club was with two of my law school classmates who inexplicably wanted to read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, I think the idea was to remind us why we were suffering through law school. So whatever, I reread the book, go to the hostesses house, we end up drinking three bottles of wine between the three of us – and not talking about the book at all.

    Fun night, no literary analysis. 🙂

    My other reason is that I either read the book too early and forget everything I want to talk about or I wait until too late and end up doing a lot of skimming.

  13. Melinda

    I don’t belong to a book club yet, but there are plans in the making of starting one (with my writer friend). I must say that I would get nervous when someone else (who I don’t know) has to pick a book. Good luck with the next book club pick!

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