In my professional life I had the joy of discussing literature three times a week with a class of eager and not so eager student readers. I appreciated hearing their different understandings of each writing, but too often was the designated “expert” supposed to tell them “what does it really mean?” No matter how many times I told them literature was not written for college professors but for general readers, they turned to me for the final opinion.
In retirement I have the pleasure of being one reader among others in several iterations of book groups. One group of five women formed after our gym shut down last year. It turns out we enjoy each other even more when we aren’t having to count repetitions! Here we meet once a month for about 90 minutes to talk over a selection made by one of us. We take turns suggesting and choosing the books. It is a time blessedly free of academic language. No “real meanings,” no “hidden symbols.” In fact it usually is a relaxed time to catch up and talk a bit about the books and a lot about our lives.
Once a week I talk to a friend across the country about a chapter of whatever book we have chosen. Again, we take turns picking the reading. We chat for 30 minutes about the reading and about our grown kids. Right now we are half through the tome by Jill Lepore “These Truths,” a history of the United States. Even though my friend majored in American history, it is especially fun to see what each of us never learned in college.
Every couple of months I have the joy of an international book group hosted by a Canadian. This introduces me to a myriad of books that I not only haven’t read but to authors I have never heard of. This humbling experience reminds me that I will never have to run out of good reading. I actually used to be afraid of that when I was younger!
Are any of you in book groups? How do they work for you?