Read Fiction to Get Real

What book club taught me about myself

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Note: My Book Club Doesn't Drink Tea
Note: My Book Club Doesn't Drink Tea

I was asked recently, “What have you learned about yourself that has surprised you the most?”

I’ve always put myself in the category of having high self-awareness.  Part of that comes from being in a family of straight-shooters. Much of it comes from training as a professional actor.  If you want to strip your soul bare and splay it out atop Corcovado mountain in Rio, get an MFA in Acting.  (This is a topic for another blog all by itself.)  

A dear friend, we’ll call Connan because that’s her name, jokes that I’ve always been self-aware. I know what I want and don’t want.  I was particularly self-aware that I didn’t want clubs.   I chose my college because it didn’t have sororities.  I ate at the general cafeteria, not the dining houses.  The oxygen mask would drop from the ceiling of the car when I drove into a golf course neighborhood.  I’d say I was anti-club (except for the Delta Sky Club which is totally, hypocritically, different).

In 2012, I reluctantly joined the neighborhood book club.  I think my neighbor–we’ll call her Rebecca because that’s her name–caught me at a moment of weakness.  I said “yes” against my better judgment.  It was not only a club, but it also read mostly fiction–not my favorite genre. Who has time to read stuff that isn’t true?  Fast forwarding through 80 books to 2020, we’ve read about vampires, ghosts, martians and societies that control female reproduction.  We’ve read comedians who weren’t funny.  We’ve read enough about WWII to get an honorary PhD.  We’ve read award winning works that made us declare, “Let’s write a book.  We could do better than this.”  We have uncovered a novel theorem of inverse correlation: the fewer pages one reads of the book, the more violently one debates the book.  

Funny, we don’t even live in the same neighborhood anymore, but we are still a book club working hard to keep itself together.  We have experienced, at times, solidarity.  We have required some next-morning apologies.  In these 8 years, we have turned the page on every chapter of life’s most giant joys and life’s greatest griefs.  

What has surprised me the most about myself is that I am now 8 years into being an active member of a club. I need this club.  Book optional.

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