Are book clubs too snobby?

Book clubs are popping up in pockets up and down the country. They’re a great reason for avid readers to get together over a glass of wine (or three) and discuss the latest novel on the agenda.

I realise in some book clubs, it’s less about the book and more about the social aspect, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Whereas in others, the literary discussions are taken more seriously – and there’s nothing wrong with that either. Whatever floats the members’ boats seems to me to be the best way.

I do have an incy wincy bit of an issue with book clubs in general though, and that is there doesn’t often seem to be an appetite to read and discuss books that aren’t considered on the ‘literary’ side, or ‘upmarket’, as some might say.

I’m sure there are some clubs, who do choose books that are considered more accessible – the ‘holiday’ type read if you will, modern romance, erotica. But, as a whole, whenever I ask a friend what their club is reading, it’s almost always one that’s rather highbrow. Their showing me the book is often accompanied with an eye roll or a lip curl (from them, not me), and even a vocal complaint that they’d rather read something more cheerful / easier-to-read / less serious, etc. 

So, um, why don’t they give it a try?

I realise it’s good to read a bit of everything; that sometimes you cannot and should not judge a book by its cover; that the best reads aren’t necessarily the easiest or most light-hearted. I also realise that there’s nothing at all wrong with literary fiction or highbrow books. However, there does, I’m afraid, appear to be a level of snobbishness surrounding many book clubs that means genres such as romance or chicklit rarely appear on their reading lists. 

People I meet often ask me what my latest book’s about and say it could be something they put forward to their book club. When I tell them it’s a romance or an erotic romance, every single one so far has said something along the lines of “Oh, I don’t think that would be suitable for the book club.” This is often followed by “Of course, I’d love for us to read something like that, but the other members would probably throw me out!”

Surely, if they’d love to read ‘something like that’, then there are other members who would too.

Isn’t it a shame that we feel we can’t introduce a romance or erotic romance to the book club because the genre isn’t considered intelligent enough? Romance / erotica  is the highest grossing genre. At $1.44 billion, it brings in twice the income of the next best-selling, which is crime. And yet, many book club members are too embarrassed to suggest reading such a novel in fear of their peers thinking them stupid, common or tasteless.

Come on, book-clubbers – isn’t it time to mix it up a bit? Or maybe you’re part of a book club that does embrace all sorts of genres or are dedicated to romance, holiday reads, cosy mysteries or whatever it may be. Knowing that would make me feel warmer about the world.

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