Next week we will run a book club as a classroom simulation. In last class, we explored what contribute a successful book club. First, we learned that introducing new technology (e.g. video conference and blogging) makes participants enjoy new book club activities that weren’t possible before. For instance, people can enjoy the discussion with authors who is in distance from the place that a book club is held if they can use videoconferencing devices. Also, a librarian can learn book club members’ thoughts before a book club is held by reading blog posts, so she can have prepare interesting book club questions to appeal book club members. Second, we learned that participating in a book club helps people feel and become a “real” member of a community.
One of our assigned readings says “People are looking for a chance to connect, and the library’s book club is a real community”. At first I was not quite sure why people took the role of book club so highly in their everyday life. I have never participated in a book club and my only experience in discussing books was academic seminars. But in class we learned that an instructor of a book club should be able to make people feel comfortable to talk about their personal thoughts, and also encourage people to participate in the discussion whether they read a book or not. There are several points made in class that change my mind about the importance of a book club in an American community, such as “book club needs to be held in remote area in library, so members can feel comfortable to talk about their personal experience and thought,” ” Be aware that an instructor of book club for elderly people needs to consider the book club members’ problem of memory precision,” “one of purpose of joining a book club can be therapeutic one,” and ” make sure leave some empty spaces while instructor make a circle to sit, so anytime people can leave without disturbing other people or handicapped person can join a book club any time.” All these make me realize that the real purpose of a book club is not only to promote the understanding of a book’s content and the sharing and broadening of our knowledge about the book or author with people who have same interests but also to provide a place where community members can socialize with other community members and communicate with neighbors.
In order to prepare book club questions for next class, I checked out some exemplary book club questions from various sources(e.g. education web sites, exemplary questions suggested to a reader in a book that I owned, and professional book club guideline web site). My major findings is that sharing members’ own experiences with each other is the most important book club activity. Many recent research points out that we have become increasingly disconnected from one another and social structures such as churches or political parties have disintegrated. However, a book club seems to serve as a place to share my personal thought and hear my neighbors’ experience by using a book as a medium.
This Monday Kirsten and I will lead a book club in the classroom. Discussion I am familiar with is generally for debate, not for sharing thoughts with one another, so I am very excited I can finally experience a book club activity for the first time. At the same time, I am a bit nervous about whether I would be able to encourage other members to express their thoughts. For the book club, Kirsten and I picked a digital book titled “sofas”. This is the short essay about a man who once lived as homeless but became an advocate of homeless people. We have been touched by his story and his voice and images of the digital book. We are a bit worried that a digital book is still relatively a new type of reading materials, that we choose non-fiction which is generally unpopular to book clubs, and that our book deals with a social issue that might be a heavy topic for a book club (we will not present a question like “Under long term economic recession, how does government’s budget cut affect the welfare policy?” because it is not a seminar). But, I hope this will be a time to experience the new type of reading and to think about our neighbors who need our support.
Reading materials of other Spade teams for their book club exercise were all fun to read. I read some of stuff written by Poe, Marquez, and O’Henry before, but all stories they chose are new to me. The Princess and the Puma reassure me that O’Henry is one of a few writers who know how to write a punch-line in a short story. It is real fun to imagine what the princess is thinking while Mr. Ripley Givens is lying to her. Marquez is one of my favorite novelists. His A very old man of enormous wings is a extremely realistic narrative with hallucinating storytelling about an angle. It reminds me of his 100 years of Solitude. In my view, he is a really good writer to capture the pathos of Latin America’s culture. If I were 10 years old and read this story, I won’t sleep at night and will cry thinking of this poor poor old angel. The Cask of Amontillado makes me feel like crazy because it is very hard to understand metaphor in the story. But, the fun part of a book club is listening to other people’s thoughts, so the book club on this book will be the most exciting session to me. Finally, I got really mad at Forbe’s article, If I was a poor black kid. The author claims that 1 percent of smart African American kids is worth rescuing from their misery and also that increasing inequality is not caused by defect of social structure. I really wish his opinion is not what a majority of middle class in US is believing.