Books in Company
I belong to two book groups. Though both groups focus on children's and young adult literature, they are set up quite differently.
The first group I joined meets once a month, and we read three texts for each meeting: a picture book, a junior fiction title, and a young adult book. Once a year we select themes for forthcoming meetings, so from month to month we might read books on Steampunk, or Humour, or Witches, or Hamlet. Typically, our group of ten or so has a lively discussion on the merits and faults of the books we've read (one person agrees to facilitate, and guides our debate, and shares useful research they've discovered), and then we adjourn for a big chatty lunch. It's been fascinating to compare the way that the same theme is tackled in books for different age groups -- for example, the War books varied hugely in their approach, in interesting ways. Often, different members of the group will express wildly differing opinions on each book: someone loathes fantasy, someone else loved the language in this novel but disliked the storyline, another enjoyed the story but found the language pretentious. We have great arguments.
The second group I belong to is much more casual. We meet only every six weeks, and there are no set books; instead, we bring along any kids' or YA books we've read lately, and tell the others what we thought of them. Sometimes this leads to several members reading the same book, one after the other, as the volume is lent around, but usually we've all read different things. They might be brand new discoveries, or old favourites, or books that were overlooked when they were first published.
Both groups have led to my reading books I wouldn't otherwise have picked up. My knowledge and appreciation of picture books, especially, has grown immensely. I love being part of both groups, and the discipline of belonging to a group has kept me focused on my reading, and forced me to think more critically about what I read, which is a Good Thing.
But mostly I'm just grateful to have met the wonderful, clever, generous, interesting ladies who comprise both these groups, and to be able to call them my friends. To those fabulous women (and you know who you are): thank you.