Why I’m Bad at Book Clubs

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I have been part of several failed book clubs. And while their demise wasn’t entirely my fault, I have to admit to being relieved when they ended. I might be a big reader, but I am definitely not a book club person. Here’s why:

I don’t like being told what to read.

This has been true my ENTIRE life. If a book was assigned in school, no matter how good it is, I developed an instant aversion to it. I still haven’t read The Giver because it was assigned reading in 8th grade. And despite a lot of people telling me it’s a great book, I just cannot muster the motivation to pick it up (sixteen years later). In my brief experience with book clubs, I encountered the same problem (not that anyone else was actually reading the books, but still).

I’ve already read a lot of the books.

Somehow, in all the book clubs I’ve been a part of, they manage to select books I’ve already read about 90% of the time. Which means I either have to reread it or skim it to refresh my memory before the discussion. And honestly, that kind of takes the fun out of it. I want to read a book with fresh eyes and show up feeling excited about it. I’m not going to contribute much about a book I read two years ago.

I’m an impatient reader.

(This is also why I am terrible at buddy reading.) I usually read pretty quickly, and start getting restless if I go too long without finishing a book. I don’t do well when I have to read during a specific time frame. With book clubs, I tend to get impatient having to wait for everyone else to finish the book. My last book club took three months to finish a book once (even with monthly meetings) and I just really wanted to move on.

I don’t like taking charge.

I read more than the average person – a lot more – and while it’s totally okay that everyone reads different amounts (other people have lives), I tend to become the token bookworm in any group. In book clubs, that means people looking to me for answers, and being the center of attention makes me cringe. I don’t like the responsibility of guiding the discussion (even if it’s because I’m the only one who actually finished the book), and it makes the whole thing feel more like work than fun.

I struggle with sounding smart but not pretentious.

I have a terrible habit of dumbing myself down when I talk. (It’s a childhood thing stemming from other people’s insecurities and my desire to avoid confrontation and having to constantly explain myself.) When I do try to sound intelligent, I feel like I’m being pretentious or condescending and it makes me uncomfortable. Basically, either way I feel anxious, unless I’m with people I feel really comfortable with.

I don’t particularly enjoy analyzing books outside of school.

While I actually really enjoyed all the literature courses I took in college and grad school, and analyzing the works we read, I mostly just like enjoying books at face value. Once in a blue moon I’ll delve deeper into a classic, but that’s about it. I don’t enjoy looking at every single detail in contemporary novels especially. It kind of sucks the fun out of it for me.

I sometimes take it personally when people don’t like the books I like.

Everyone has different taste, and that’s completely okay. But I am still disappointed when someone doesn’t like a book I loved. I think it’s harder to deal with when it’s in person. I can choose to ignore the bad review of my favorite book online, but I don’t like listening to someone talk about why they hated it.


Have you ever participated in a book club? I’d love to hear about your experience!

36 thoughts on “Why I’m Bad at Book Clubs

  1. I joined a Facebook book club for Danielewski’s House of Leaves, thinking it would be a good way to reread it. I read it the first time over the course of like, seven years?? Because it’s complex and weird and gave me migraines, so I thought that a structured reread would do me good. I left the club before the first discussion (taking place over one week) ended. We were meant to analyse the cover?? and the dedication page? and people in general were just SO into theorising and annotating (a few people had hundreds of sticky notes poking out of their copies – yes, copies, because they owned FOUR of the same book). It was exhausting and super intimidating. It didn’t feel like a fun environment unless this book was your entire life. That is my only book club experience, and it will probably be my last.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ugh, that does not sound fun at all! I’m the kind of person who gets turned off when other people are WAY too into something, so I wouldn’t have been able to do it. That’s how people ruin books.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s exactly how I felt. I don’t even really know if I enjoyed the book the first time and seeing all the different conspiracies and “annotated copies vs reading copies” scared me off. I might read the book again at some point, but it’s a ton of work and I’m not sure it’s worth it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We should be able to just read books. Period. I have a masters degree in English, and even I think things like that are going way too far. Not everything needs to be analyzed (or overanalyzed). Maybe just read it again for your own pleasure?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s like you know me! We have a book club in our neighborhood, and though the ladies are absolutely lovely, I have no desire to join. I don’t (usually) care about the books they are reading and I already have so much on my TBR list as it is. I have social anxiety so group settings can sometimes be difficult, even when it’s people I know. I definitely would feel the pressure of turning into the “leader” because of my background.
    I have thought about trying to start a silent book club, wherein people get together in a comfortable place with a glass of wine and read. It’s a way to set aside time to relax and read and maybe catch up with friends briefly but there is no pressure to discuss or interact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That actually sounds really nice! I would totally join a silent book club. Just need to find people who are okay with not talking (they’re so rare haha). I’m not a good group person, either, and I think it’s hilarious how people are not okay with me being alone so often, even though it’s more than fine by me.

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  3. I have an opposite experience. Since I joined a book club, I read more and more diversely. However, our book club has a different approach – we pick a monthly topic or theme, and everyone can then choose a book or books they want to read as closely or loosely associated with the topic as they wish (very democratic). There are also no limitations on how many books you must read in one month. The discussion is mostly whether you liked the book(s) or not, and why. We don’t tend to overexert ourselves with deep analysis because it’s usually only one person who has read that particular book (and it would take the fun out of things). It’s also a good way to find out about new books I might want to read. The one thing you can’t avoid – not everyone likes the same books you do.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it also takes away the pressure. I think there was once a suggestion to try and read one book, but it was dismissed pretty soon (basically, we couldn’t agree on the book). We all have our preferences and reading speed, so this way everyone can enjoy the experience!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m totally the same about trying to sound smart but not pretentious! I always say I have the vocabulary of a 10 year-old boy, but it’s mainly because I try to dumb myself down so people don’t think I’m pretentious or bitchy (which is annoying because I have every right to be those things)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same! My mom tends to get really defensive when I sound intelligent, so it took me a LONG time to realize that’s okay. In college, professors were always shocked when I turned in a well-written paper because that’s now how I speak. Glad I’m not the only one!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ve been trying to work on this issue myself. I’ve noticed my manner of speech changing over the years because people would tease me about using “big words” when I was just speaking naturally. It always seemed a bit sexist to me, because i don’t hear those kinds of complaints so much when educated men speak, so I’m trying to break myself of the habit of dumbing things down. It’s beyond irritating to be made to feel self conscious about having an education.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I feel you! I’ve tried to make a point of using the words I want to use now, and it feels so good. It’s really annoying to have to accommodate other people because they feel insecure about their vocabulary (and, I’ve learned, often refuse to do anything about it).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes!!! It’s totally sexist sometimes! I’ve definitely noticed that men aren’t nearly as judged for using big words as women are. And honestly, I worked hard for my education so I’m going to use all the words I want to use, especially in professional settings

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh my, I can relate to those reasons soo much! I have never been in a book club but I think the closest I will get to that is with a buddy read and that’s already making it really difficult for me sometimes. If I like a book, I just want to read it all in one go, but that would totally defeat the point of the buddy read then haha

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am part of three book clubs but they are all unique so I keep it fresh. One is classics specifically and the other two mix it up, but usually the group makes a joint decision. It’s very rare we read a book I have read already. However, you make totally valid points. I have felt that way at some point or another but I keep at it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good. I think a major part of my frustration is that I’d read the book, and one other person usually did, but then no one else did and we ended up talking about other things. It’s nice if everyone puts the effort in.

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  7. I do like book clubs, but find myself in the same spot with reading ahead. Next week our local book club is discussing a book I read years ago. I have read hundreds since then! So now I am rereading. I like going, but talk too much and probably sound like a know it all because I get overly excited about books.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I joined The Girly Book Club back in November (it’s an international all-woman book club where all the chapters around the world read the same book each month,) and I’ve enjoyed it so far. They tend to focus on newer releases, so I’m not running into books I’ve already read, and it’s a new book every month, so there’s no waiting on anyone else to finish.
    I do have some reservations about being told what books to read, but to me it’s just a necessary evil when it comes to a book club, and it’s worth it for the discussion that comes afterward. It’s probably really a good thing for me, because it’s made me pick up books outside the genres I’d normally read, and I’ve been surprised to find myself loving some of the book I’d never have chosen for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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