Joining a book club

Apr 27, 2018 | 10 comments

Long before I became a writer, I was a reader. From childhood until today, books have been my comfort, joy and inspiration.

The library is one of my happy places, and when life hurts, I return to the pages of my favorite books, finding solace there only well-loved characters can give.

However, despite being a lifelong reader, I only joined a book club this year, at the urging of a friend who sings in my choir. And now all I can say is why did it take me so long?!

Reading outside my genre

As an author, reading is my “job” and although I read widely in women’s fiction and contemporary romance, I don’t have much time to read beyond that.

Book club reading stretches my reading menu and “cleanses my palate” to come back to my usual reading fare refreshed and inspired.

In the past three months, book club picks included The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger, Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan, and The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.

These different reading experiences—from Pullinger’s account of an Englishwoman and her maid in Victorian Egypt (based on a true story), to MacLennan’s “romantic realist” novel of the 1917 Halifax explosion, and then a bookish France in George’s story—were not only thought-provoking but also helped me look at my own writing in new ways.

Book chat…with tea and cake

Before I joined a book club, my reading was largely solitary and I rarely talked about books I’d read with anyone else.

Now I can share my passion for books and reading with a similarly enthusiastic group of women who, as an added bonus, serve tea and cake, a staple of my life in England. 

Laughter and life lessons

My book club members are of various ages, backgrounds and life experiences.

Some are widowed or have husbands with medical challenges, or are dealing with their own health issues or family difficulties. Although they might have reasons to be sad, they’re upbeat, forthright, amusing and good company.

As one member with beautiful snow-white hair (the hair I want when I’m her age!) joked about an accident on her recent Caribbean holiday: “Remember, I fell on my way into the bar, not my way out!”

No matter what their life stage or context, these women have collective wisdom to benefit and enrich me.

A reader, not an author

Perhaps most important of all, at my book club, I’m a reader like everyone else.

Although I love my author life, it’s freeing to read one book a month solely for pleasure and talk about that book without being in full-on “author mode.”

Every writer should also be a reader, but sometimes I want to be a reader first, and my book club gives me a place to do that.

I may have discovered the joys of a book club late, but I’m now a happy convert! Do you belong to a reading group? Can you suggest any books my club might enjoy reading?


  1. Lally Brown

    Sounds wonderful Jen, a real tonic to share thoughts about a book ? and try genres you wouldn’t normally be drawn to! I’m still a ‘curl up on the sofa solo reader’ perhaps it’s time to join the fun!

    • Jen Gilroy

      It is wonderful, Lally! I’m very much a ‘solo reader’ too but this book club experience is enriching my life. It’s important to find the book club community that’s a good fit for you, though. Happy reading! xx

  2. Jennifer Wilck

    Hmm, I’ve tried joining book clubs, without much success. The first one I belonged to was at the urging of a friend. Other than my friend, I wasn’t thrilled with the other women and the only books we read were Oprah picks, back in the day when all the Oprah picks were the same (don’t know about now, things might have changed). And, when you hosted, you had to serve dinner, accommodating a variety of dietary restrictions. So I eventually left. I recently joined another book club through my temple, but haven’t had much time to attend. I’m trying, though. If you’re looking for some interesting book club books, try America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray, Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult or Truly, Madly, Guilty by Lianne Moriarty. They are all really good.

  3. Jen Gilroy

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Jennifer. Book clubs have to be a good fit and so far I’ve been lucky with this one. The thought of having to serve dinner as part of a book group meeting horrifies me! Thanks too for suggesting some good books for a club to read.

  4. Susanna Bavin

    I have never actually joined a reading group, but it is something I would like to do. It must be interesting to try out new genres. I must admit to reading quite narrowly from choice, as far as genres go. Maybe I need to have my horizons broadened! I like the idea of socialising with other readers too.

    I suggest “The Secret Between Us” by Barbara Delinsky as a book group suggestion. It is an emotionally complex story about a mother who takes responsibility for a road traffic accident caused by her daughter. As with all Barbara Delinsky novels, the plot takes off in various unexpected ways. A fascinating book with plenty to discuss.

  5. Jen Gilroy

    Yes, it is interesting to try out new genres, Susanna and it’s been good for me to have my “horizons broadened!” Although I’m an introvert, I’m also enjoying talking with other readers about books. As some other commenters have said, though, it’s important to find a club that is a good fit for you/your reading tastes.

    Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing a book recommendation. I enjoy Barbara Delinsky’s books but haven’t read “The Secret Between Us.”

  6. Tara

    It sounds like you’ve found an amazing club. I’ve always been tempted but haven’t so far. You’ve convinced me I need to find one and give it a go.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Tara. Like you, I’d considered joining a book group previously but the time never seemed right. I was also a bit wary about what to expect! As I’ve said to others, you need to find a club that’s a good fit for you, but if you do, it can be (as I’ve found!) a very positive experience.

  7. Heidi Vanstone

    I joined a Christian book club last September, and it’s been an amazing experience. We all come from unique faith backgrounds, which makes for wonderful discussions. It’s always such a blessing to take a step out of my regular routine to meet with these like-minded moms and have my faith enriched on so many levels!

  8. Jen Gilroy

    I’m happy to hear you’ve found a book club that’s a good fit for you, Heidi–a blessing! Thanks for reading my post and sharing your experience.


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