I've been in a number of book discussion groups over the years.
Most of these book groups are organized in one of two ways, both of which involve dictating what the members will read. Usually the sponsoring organization (such as a library) or the group's leader will pick the "homework assignment" for everyone else. Or the members themselves will vote on which book to read.
The Omni Book Club, organized in 2009 by Laura Nemeth -- marketing manager at the Sandusky Register in Ohio, where I work as a reporter -- and Marian Hancy, a retired high school English teacher in Huron, Ohio, follows a different model.
The members sit around the table at a public meeting room and take turns describing what they've read in the past month.
That's a system that allows members to read what they please, but also exposes the others to books they might never have considered reading.
And although there's no pressure, it's not unusual for a particular title, over the months, to wend its way through the group. Many if not most of Omni Book Club's members have read "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls.
After I described "The Secret Life of Eva Hathaway" by Janice Weber, and read one or two sentences capturing the book's scathing style, several club members read it.
After each meeting, every title brought up during the discussion is listed in a post in the book club's blog.
The format also allows books to be discussed that wouldn't be featured in many book clubs. You can probably guess who brought up the books by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea.
When I took a trip about a year ago and had dinner with some old friends in Lawton, Oklahoma, I told them about the book club. They then formed a sister club in Lawton. Another sister club is being discussed in Seattle, Wash.
The Omni Book Club offers a model for democratic book club meetings that allow everyone to have a say in the discussion.
I really like this idea. I tried to start a Joyce/RAW/Pynchon/Wm Gibson/PKD/Neal Stephenson- ish book club via Craig's List, but it didn't fly. This idea is a lot better.
What a drag to be in a club and you've all read some fairly stimulating book and had a good discussion, but then it was So-and-So's turn to pick the next book, and it's Tuesdays With Morrie.
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