Nonfiction: The Book Club Killer
When my Nantucket book club chose a nonfiction book as its October read, I was interested to see what would happen. I’d never read nonfiction for a book club before nor had I had anything other than academic discussion of nonfiction books.
On the face of it, I think there is simply less to discuss and debate with nonfiction. Usually I found that when casually talking about nonfiction, the conversation was limited to a short summary of the book’s main argument, a brief recognition of if the book was enjoyable or not, and whether or not my conversational partner should read it. Beyond that, discussion of nonfiction seemed to flag.
So I was particularly interested to see what would happen in the confines of a book club. Would new avenues of discussion blossom? Would we find we had nothing much to say other than liking or disliking it? Would comparisons to other nonfiction arise? Would we pull in examples of novels about a similar topic to look at how differently they treated the subject?
I’m sorry to say I never got to find out the answers to any of these questions because, as it turns out, nonfiction is a book club killer. At this point, three months after the book was chosen and a date set, this book club has yet to meet and half the club hasn’t finished the book.
Furthermore, the club has disintegrated into conflicting perspectives on how to move forward, with half wanting to wait until everyone finishes to we can talk about the book and the other half just wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, pick a new book, and pretend this whole episode never happened.
In short: it’s a mess. So, I’m here to strongly recommend to any fledgling book clubs out there that you stick to fiction! Or at least when you start your book club, make sure it has set rules of what sort of books you’re reading. If everyone is on board with nonfiction, perhaps it would work out marvelously and I would finally be able to see what nonfiction book club discussion looks like. What a wonderful world that would be!
Until that magical day, I think I’ll stick to reading nonfiction on my own and stay on the fiction side of the street for groups. Your thoughts?