I posted this last week on The Lyon Review, Mt. Holyoke College’s literary review. There are some excellent stories and essays up at the site. If you’ve never checked it out, do. But, I noticed the book club tips was getting lots of traffic, so thought I’d re-post it here. Hope it’s helpful for all you reader types.
If your book clubs are anything like mine, we’re entering planning season. I belong to two book clubs — not that I’m a good member of either, I travel too much — both of these groups operate during the academic year and take the summers off. So, it’s in the summer months that we get together and choose the coming year’s selections. We bring our lists and our ideas and discuss, share and eventually, vote. The books that don’t make it are shared later in an email for us to use as a suggested reading list later. In both groups, we usually end up with more fiction than non-fiction, one classic book (sometimes from the young adult category) and occasionally, a short story collection. Both of my groups skew heavily into literary fiction and tend to avoid most genre fiction, with historical being an exception. These lists reflect closely what I like to read.
But, as an emerging author, I have some concerns about my book club lists that I’d like to call to the attention of other book club groups, especially women’s book clubs. Please, please, as you create your lists, do think about how you can support women authors as you create those lists. If you’ve missed the VIDA count the last two years and what it says about the publishing industry and female authors, please, do read here.
So, here are some tips and/or things to think about as you compile your 2012-2013 group list, with a special eye toward supporting female authors:
1) Try to have your choices by female authors outweigh numbers by male authors. (I’m not suggesting NOT reading male authors, but, please, support female authors!)
2) Try to choose at least one book by a debut author. I’m reading The Lifeboat right now, by Charlotte Rogan and expect to start soon on The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier — I hope one of these might end up on one of my book clubs’ lists.
3) If your group doesn’t already select a classic, please consider it. It’s a marvelous experience to revisit, or maybe meet for the first time, characters that are part of the collective canon.
4) Publishing is changing, but people reading has not. Try to encourage your book clubs to read a self-published book that you personally can vouch for. Many readers are frightened, justifiably, of the lack of vetting in self-publishing. But, if you have read a self-published work that is worthy of your group’s attention — SUGGEST IT!!! For my groups, I really hope to turn them on to Poached is Not An Option, a short story collection by Carol Wobig. Right now it’s only available on e-readers, but should be out in print by the fall.
5) Be open to trying something new for you. When someone suggests a genre you don’t generally read, give it a try!
Finally, when you have read a book, and you have enjoyed it — these are ways you can truly support that author:
*** If you can afford it, buy the book. Don’t borrow it. Buy it. Buy more than one if you can.
*** Post a thoughtful review on Amazon and Goodreads. Let other readers know what you liked and why.
***Tell all your friends to read the book. That includes your virtual friends.
Hopefully, these tips were helpful — feel free to pass along some of your own. Happy #reading and #writing!