Tag Archives: book club

My new friend lent me a book and I hated it. Do I have to pretend I liked it?

What’s the most polite way to return a book to someone who loved it, and lent it to you because they were sure that you would also love it — but it’s so far from your literary taste that you’re actually kind of horrified that someone would think you would like it? I recently made a new friend at work and we really hit it off, and I would love to hang out with her and be real friends, not just work friends. She insisted that I read a certain book she’d just finished and couldn’t stop going on and on about how amazing it was. I read the book, and I really hate it. It sucked. Do you have any ideas for polite ways to break up with the book but not the person?

There’s a moment in the life of every woman between the ages of, let’s say, 18 and 45, when she makes a new friend, they have a few glasses of wine and a nice conversation, maybe they go shoe shopping or for a long walk together, and then the new friend says, “Have you read ‘Eat, Pray, Love?'”

It’s a real turning point. There’s a decision to be made. Do you mumble something about appreciating the writer’s honesty, do you gush about how it changed your life and made you see everything from a totally different perspective, or do you confess that halfway through it you threw the book at the wall and screamed, “GET SOME REAL PROBLEMS, YOU NAVEL-GAZING TWIT!!!!!”?

After our book club read that book, there was an awkward silence at the beginning of the next meeting. Some people were already doing downward dog and warrior pose in order to open up their bodies and minds to the conversation, while others were chugging Chardonnay straight from the bottle and beating their heads against the wall, weeping, “Please, make her go away. Please make Elizabeth Gilbert go away.” And then we started to talk. And it really was the best book club meeting we ever had, I think, because people were passionate about the book, whether they loved it or hated it. It was an excellent discussion, even though a lot of people were disagreeing with each other.

So I think you should be honest with your new friend about the book she lent you. Don’t be all like, “You must think I’m a real douchebag if you think I’d like that shitty book,” but certainly, when you return it, say, “That was really interesting. I haven’t read much skateboarding vampire fiction; how did you get into it?” Have an honest discussion. That’s what friends do.

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My book club discusses everything but the book.

My book club has about ten members. They’re all smart women who enjoy reading and literature, but I find that we talk about the book for about ten minutes and the conversation quickly degenerates into drunken conversations about husbands, boyfriends, whichever book club members didn’t come that night, and shoes. I enjoy talking about shoes and certainly appreciate a good tidbit of gossip, but I don’t find book club to be the appropriate forum. When it takes a turn, I try to steer the conversation back to that month’s book, and I have even come prepared with discussion questions and print-outs of book reviews, but it doesn’t seem to help. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can make book club more productive, less about what’s happening in the neighborhood, and a little more about the book? Thank you.

I do!

Find a new book club. I know you want to talk about the book, honey, but clearly no one else does.

I’m a voracious reader and a devoted book-clubber, and I’ve been in a bunch of book groups over the years. In one club, we never read anything more challenging than a Judy Blume novel and only drank wine out of a box; our best meeting ever ended with one woman–who claimed to be a Mensa member–woozily taking her top off and encouraging us to squeeze her breast implants. Another book club met in a coffee shop basement, where people flung about Camus quotes (en Francais, of course) and dismissed Pynchon as nothing more than a male version of Danielle Steele. It was intellectually stimulating, but boring as fuck.

I suggest you start a new book club, with like-minded folks who are as serious as you. Or just give it up, throw caution to the wind, and at your next meeting chug a glass of Chardonnay and take your shirt off.

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