Beagle Books Men's Book Club
Deane Johnson of Park Rapids, MN talks about his group, Beagle Books Men's Book Club -- an all-male book club. Members meet at a bookstore and keep their discussion sessions short and sweet so that everyone has a good time. Read on to learn more about this interesting group that has had to cope with the challenge of getting men to talk aloud about the books they read, and with one member who suffers from an interesting seasonal syndrome.
Q: Does your group have a name and/or a theme? How long has your group been in existence? How did you get started?
A: We are just the Beagle Books Men's Book Club, and have been in existence for about 1 year. We got our start after several of my friends requested a book club for men, reading books by men, written for men. I know it sounds a little macho much, but this was what they wanted, and it has worked well for us.
Q: How many members do you have? How many men are in the group? What age are most of your members?
A: We have about 10 members overall, and average 5 - 7 per meeting. Age range is late 40s to 60s.
Q: How often do you meet? Where do you meet?
A: We meet monthly at the bookstore, although have had a meeting or two at a local restaurant.
Q: Do you eat at your meetings? Who brings the food?
A: We usually have coffee and snacks, I bring some and usually one other person brings something.
Q. Were you in other book groups before you started this all-male book group?
A: JIll and I were in a couples book group years ago, organized around the Great Books program.
Q. Why do you think that more men are not in book clubs?
A: Men read books, but may not be as interested in the discussion part of it. There are conflicts with other interests as well. For example, one of our members has contracted St. Andrews Syndrome. Every spring when the weather gets nice the affliction returns. He finds that by walking around a grassy area for a few hours and swinging his arms vigorously 50-100 times, it gets better.
Q. Do you see your group as different from groups that are all-female, or those that are comprised of both sexes?
Q: Who leads the discussion? Do you use reading group guides?
A: The discussion is free-flowing, I sometimes lead, but mostly everyone chimes in. We have tried reading group guides, but most of the discussion covers the questions and usually goes well beyond. The guides often don't address the more difficult issues and "lit. crit." in depth.
Q: What kind of books do you read?
A: Mostly fiction -- better discussion -- but we also have read Walden and others that are similar.
Q: How do you choose your books?
A: We usually pick the next month's book at our meeting. I picked the first few to get things going. We have chosen a number of the same books the womens' groups have read.
Q: What were some of the best discussions or favorite books the group read?
A: Our best discussion and favorite book so far was Kent Haruf's Plainsong. The book is sparely written, but has great depth and symbolic meaning that reinforces the theme and setting.
Q: How do you keep things fun?
A: No problem -- books are fun -- we keep the meetings fairly short. We have a well-educated group with a diverse background of occupations and interests.
Q: What advice would you give to other reading groups?
A: So far, we have had the best luck with books that are compact, to the point, and have depth. Always have food.
Q: Do you have any horror stories, amusing anecdotes, or other special tales to tell?
A: One of our first few meetings we had just two, including me. We hung in there, though.
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