book groupA few years ago, I attended my high school reunion, where I reconnected with a number of long lost friends. It turned out that some of them had not only stayed in touch, but had formed a book club with some other friends they’d met after high school, which they invited me to join. I declined, partly because it didn’t fit into my life at the time, but mainly because it had no appeal to me. I’d never been to a book club, but I’d always imagined it to be something like English class, where they would take a perfectly good book and dissect it to death. One of my friends and I began meeting for lunch several times a year, and one topic that often popped up in conversation was the books we’d each been reading. Eventually I decided I’d like to go check out a book club meeting, and once I did, I quickly decided to join.

I’ve listed below the benefits I’ve received from my book club membership, and am guessing at least some of them will appeal to other introverts. Others are specific to my group and my life, but I’m sharing them too.

Intellectually:

I’ve been exposed to a much wider variety of books, and even genres, than I’d have ever chosen to read – or even heard of – myself. These are the titles we’ve read since I joined the group:

This in turn has helped me to realize the value of reading a really good book – one I can sink my teeth into and come away with new insight and not just be entertained. For example, the above reading list has broadened my knowledge about many topics that had never been on my radar, including the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and real live “practice babies” that were used to teach mother skills to young women in the mid-20th century. I’m no longer satisfied by novels with predictable plots and uninteresting characters, though I still enjoy the occasional diversion.

Socially:

It gets me out of the house. The combination of working from home, being an introvert, and being married to someone who is even less social than I am can be isolating. Even I need to connect with the outside world every once in a while!

We meet in one another’s homes, so there’s no loud background music or other gatherings that often make it challenging to have a proper conversation in a restaurant or other public setting.

There are only six members, which for me is the optimum group size. When my husband and I go out, we like to visit with one other couple, or two at most. Any more than that, and it’s no longer an intimate gathering, but the makings of a party.

By the way, not all our group members are introverts, but the nature of the group discussions allows everyone to participate in whatever way is comfortable for them.

Personally:

It gets me on the road. The members are fairly scattered geographically, so I have to drive anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to get to a meeting. I’m not uncomfortable driving, but it’s not often that I leave my own city, and  rare that I go to an unfamiliar place, so it’s good for my confidence to do it once in a while.

I get to cook for someone other than my husband and myself. We entertain even less often than we go out, so although I love to cook, I seldom get to make recipes that won’t work in small quantities or don’t fit into our lifestyle. This gives me a chance to do this.

Due to frequent moves since leaving home, until a few years ago the only people in my life were family members and those I’d met in my current place of residence. Being reconnected to childhood friends has given me an incredible feeling of completeness.

Have you ever belonged to a book group? I’d love to hear about it, including some of the books you’ve discussed.