The Wisdom of Each Other: Book Clubs

When I was first married, Jim and I got up early one morning a week to meet with three other couples at a local bagel shop.  The wives sat together while the husbands met on the other side of the cafe.  We all read the same book and discussed it chapter by chapter.  What a blessing this was.  As newlyweds, stumbling our way through this season of life, it was such encouragement to share openly, “No!  You too?!”   The book provided the insight of an older, more experienced point of view.

If you’ve been reading these blogs for any length of time you’ve probably realized how passionate I am about older women investing in younger women, but that’s not to say there isn’t a ton we can learn from peers – and even from books!  Put the two together and can it ever be life-changing!

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When my son was in high school I was blessed with two women who would meet me at Starbucks weekly.  It was our mom’s night out. All of us were mothers of boys and struggling to figure out how to best parent them during this perplexing season of life.  Up to this point we’d enjoyed close relationships with our sons.  Suddenly those boys became distant strangers!  We each brought a copy of Paul David Tripp’s book Age of Opportunity (which I highly recommend if you have adolescents in your home!!!). Since this was a very full season of life we would read one chapter while we were together and discuss it.  Did that ever help me learn how to parent (and love!) better!

Fast forward a few years, my husband and I were traveling four days a week.  I was so blessed to be invited to take part in an online book club where the members, about seven of us, were spread across the United States but would gather at a chat room (yes, they can have incredibly great uses! ;0) via chatzy.com and discuss different books.  Granted, I much prefer face to face book clubs, but can I say, I was so blessed during this season by this group of professional women who I never would’ve met otherwise!  We would read a chapter or two each week and discuss it, sharing our hearts and lives as well.

It’s one thing to read a book in seclusion, a whole other to process with a group.  It gets you thinking about what you’re reading in a deeper way, you have the opportunity to glean new insights from the thoughts and experiences of others and best of all, there’s opportunity to be spurred on to act on what you’ve been reading.  I find when I’m part of a book club the book being read is much more likely to become an active part of my journey – and transformation!

And this isn’t just true for non-fiction!

I have so loved getting together with friends to discuss fiction too!  What a wonderful way to learn from the character’s examples!  A few years ago I stumbled on a book entitled The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton.  This is a delightful story about a group of women who start a writing group.  I found a bunch of used copies online and gave them to a number of friends who also like to write, then we gathered at my house to discuss what we learned from their experiences… and our own writing group was born!  Were we ever light years ahead benefitting from the ideas (both good and bad) gleaned from the characters!

And I know of no better way to enjoy the classics than sharing them with a friend.  My last book club consisted of my neighbor and myself.  Due to my hearing loss I’m no longer able to enjoy large group discussions so having just the two of us was such a blessing.  First, it got me through books I never would’ve survived otherwise – like Middlemarch!  It took me 250 pages before I even got into that story!  But oh!  What a story!  My life was so enriched because I persevered through this!  I never would have finished that book without the accountability of our next meeting!

Also, sharing books with my neighbor got me reading books I never would’ve known about, as we alternated selecting books. Plus, I so loved hearing the thoughts and treasures that stood out to my friend.  I cannot recommend highly enough getting together with friends to discuss books!

I find it helpful to purchase a copy of the book so I can freely underline what stands out to me. (Used copies can often be obtained inexpensively online.)  This helps me remember what I’d like to explore more with my friends and can help to focus the discussion.  But if you’re going to be discussing multiple chapters or even the whole book, can it ever help to take time to write at the end of each chapter a brief summary as well as jot down thoughts on how what you’ve read applies to your life.

If you’re discussing an entire book, it can be helpful to go back through what you’ve underlined and write up key notes (or place post-its in the book that stick out featuring one word summaries) regarding the things you want to discuss.  In the beginning I borrowed books from the library to save money but found I usually benefitted so much more and was prepared for a richer discussion when I was actively underlining and writing notes in the margins.  And since the books I put this effort into became such a special part of my journey, I usually wanted to have a copy – especially as I frequently share with others the treasures that impact me!

And as I mentioned above, you can also read the chapter when you get together and discuss it as you go along!  During busy seasons of life this was much more do-able for me and still powerfully impactful!

And have I ever benefitted from the one chapter rule.  If you or someone in the group isn’t into a book by the end of the first chapter, dump it and go for something else!  There are too many amazing books in the world to waste time with something that doesn’t captivate you!  (note:  we extend that for classics as they often take more than the first chapter to even figure out what’s going on!  ;0)

But be careful if you do participate in a book club you don’t let books take the place of The Book!  All too often I see book discussions offered as “Bible studies.”  And indeed with all my heart I believe the Bible is The most important book you could ever read and discuss!  It’s the one book we are commanded to not only read but let dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16)!  Don’t let reading someone else’s thoughts on the Bible or any other topic take the place of diving into it directly!  This needs to be a regular part of every believers life… for life!  And don’t just take my word for it!  Howard Hendricks left a wonderful series of videos on YouTube, and his first video gives compelling reasons for why this is so vital.  I highly encourage you to check this video out!

So don’t go from WOW (being a Woman of the Word) to DRAB (Damsel’s Reading A Book)!  Check out Psalm 19:10-11, Psalm 119:105, Isaiah 55:2-3, 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Peter 2:2… there is nothing like The Word of God to ignite your heart and keep your light shining, and bring life to your life!

But in their proper place, as additional supplements, book clubs can be a great source of nourishment for your heart, soul and mind… and provide delightful life changing fun!

Have you ever taken part in a book club? Do you have suggestions you’d like to share?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

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