On my Twitter biog (you’re welcome to follow me if you want, although I hardly ever tweet anything) it says, among other things, ‘Founder of the world’s best book club’. And it says that because – well, it’s true. We’re awesome. I admit that the term ‘book club’ has to be applied fairly loosely because, while we do read lots of books, we don’t tend to spend a great deal of time talking about them. It’s really just an excuse to meet up, catch up, drink tea and eat cake. We’re so rock and roll.
I used to be in a book club where we did talk about books. In fact we were expected to come to each meeting armed with one comment and one question about that month’s read. I really enjoyed it, and it was after all a book club, so it kind of made sense to have a book-centric structure. But I also felt it would be nice to have a more relaxed approach, that didn’t put pressure on anyone who hadn’t done their homework, or who just didn’t have anything particularly profound to say.
When I moved back to Kent, I thought a book club would be a fun way to meet some new people, but I couldn’t find any that already existed, so I decided to start my own. I put out a few messages on Facebook, Gumtree and the like, and sat back confidently to wait for the inevitable flood of interest…
The first meeting of the Greenhithe Book Club (I know, I know, coming up with original names has never been my strong point. Just look at the title of this blog) was a big event. It took place at my flat, and had a vast attendance of three. And yes, that does include me. It wasn’t quite the turn-out I’d hoped for, but we had fun, we ate crisps and we did actually talk about the book.
After that, our meetings moved to a local pub, primarily because I got an email from a guy who wanted to join the club but had no particular interest in reading any books. I discouraged him as much as I could, but still thought it was best not to give him my address just in case he decided to turn up, which, luckily, he never did.
Over the next few months, we gained quite a few new members (and lost a few, sadly). Eventually we moved back to my flat, mostly because we wanted to eat cake. (We’re very food-focused; I sometimes think we should be called the Greenhithe Cake Club instead.)
Now, three years later, we’re still going strong, with over 40 books read. Some have been more successful than others. The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn was a bit of a low point (so much so that I’m not even going to link to it), as was The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. On the other hand, we still to this day argue about the ending of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, and we all got very excited when Elizabeth Haynes, a local author who wrote the disturbing yet brilliant Into the Darkest Corner, came along to one of our meetings. (We also got an invite to the launch party for her third novel, Human Remains. And my name’s in the acknowledgments. Just saying.)
I won’t lie, there were times in the early days when I was tempted to give up on the whole idea. It wasn’t the overnight success I’d hoped for, so maybe it wasn’t worth the hassle. But I didn’t admit defeat, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be without my book club now. I’ve made some firm friends, laughed a lot, discovered new books that I wouldn’t have even looked at otherwise, and most importantly, had some of the most random conversations of my life. We’ve covered the addictiveness of Pringles, doggy diarrhoea (you’d be amazed how many hours we’ve got out of that topic), people who live in walls, why anyone would want to learn Klingon and what exactly is going on in the castle nearby (general consensus seems to be they’re keeping someone’s crazy mother-in-law in there. I have no idea how we reached that conclusion – or indeed whose mother-in-law she is).
Sometimes it’s easy to give up on something, if it seems doomed to failure or like a bit too much effort. But just think what you could be missing out on; you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Like I said, best book club in the world. GBC rules.