From The Wall Street Journal:
Bronwen Fitzsimons felt a lot of pressure making her first selection for the small book club of smart and well-read Brooklyn, N.Y., women she’d been asked to join. It was last summer, so looking for something light, she selected Liane Moriarty’s best-selling “Big Little Lies.” Ms. Fitzsimons cringed a bit as she read it herself, she says, realizing the page-turner about privileged Australian mothers might not meet their literary standards. She was right.
“It was a giant flop,” says Ms. Fitzsimons, a grants manager at the Rockefeller Foundation. “Everyone just rolled their eyes and then we just moved on to brunching.”
The ideal book club experience usually involves getting together with friends each month to enjoy a glass of wine and lively conversation, while feeling satisfied that you read a book that stretched the imagination or intellect.
Even with the best of intentions, readers sometimes make unpopular selections. The result: awkward conversations and accusations of bad taste. Selecting the wrong book feels like you’ve wasted your friends’ time. Something that’s supposed to be relaxing becomes a chore for those who hate the book. In the worst-case scenario, the entire club could be in jeopardy.
. . . .
Author Gretchen Rubin is a member of four New York City-based book clubs. She suggests monthly reads for 65,000 subscribers to her online “book club.” But the selection of Sylvia Engdahl’s futuristic 1970s novel “This Star Shall Abide” for her personal children’s literature book club baffled fellow members.
“They didn’t like the writing, they didn’t like the twist,” Ms. Rubin says.
. . . .
Even long-running book clubs can run into unfortunate selections, like that made by fifth-grade teacher Libby Ester’s more than 30-year-old book club, based outside Chicago. Wanting to expand their cultural horizons, last fall they agreed to read Hungarian author Magda Szabó’s “The Door,” first published in the U.S. in the 1980s but reissued to great acclaim in 2015.
The group meets at a different member’s home every six weeks or so. That night the host had even prepared Hungarian chicken paprikash for dinner. While the food was great, Ms. Ester says, everyone but the host disliked the book. “We all felt that the [narrator] was too self-centered and the writing was sort of clunky.” Her fellow members were “thumbing through the book, tapping their fingers on the page—‘See there! She’s doing it again, talking about herself one more time.’ ” The host, meanwhile, “would just occasionally pipe in with, ‘I kind of enjoyed it.’ ”
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)
PG notes that all three books have quite positive reviews on Amazon.