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Why I Can't Join Book Club

It's a love/hate thing.

By Stephanie Van OrmanPublished 3 months ago 4 min read
Why I Can't Join Book Club
Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

Every so often, I have someone ask me to join their book club. I'd love to join their book club, but I can't. Actually, it's not even a good idea for me to explain to them why I can't join their club. That would take a solid three minutes and the person who's asking will be a content with a polite 'no, thank you' since that answers their question.

However, it bothers me that I can't really express myself. So... here's the thing:

1. I've already read that book.

2. I didn't like it.

3. I saw the movie for that book.

4. I didn't like it.

5. I heard someone talking about that book.

6. I didn't like what they had to say.

That is the tip of the love/hate relationship that I have with books. Just the tippy-tip.

Do you know what the ultimate book club is? That's right. It's going to university and taking a degree in English literature. That was what everyone expected me to do when I graduated from high school. Except, I was sitting at my desk thinking about the books I had been given to read in grade school and how many of them I liked. I maybe liked two of all the books I had been given to read during 12 years of English class. I was staring straight ahead thinking that wasn't the life I wanted for myself. I didn't want to sit around reading books chosen for me. Was it too much to ask for me to have the freedom to choose my own books?

Every single time someone tells me I should read a book, I smile, nod, promise to read it, and basically disassociate until they're finished talking. I'm not going to remember the name of the book because I was blocking out everything they said.

But I LOVE BOOKS. I love books in a big way. I'm a novelist and I have been writing novels for almost thirty years. I just finished my 28th novel. Even before I had the skills to write my thoughts on paper, I had a wild fondness of imagining stories. I loved playing pretend. I was basically born with a fire in my gut for storytelling.

And I've got to tell you, there is a really big difference inside someone who wants to read a book and someone who wants to write a book. Someone who reads books does not read a book the same way I do. I used to be able to read. I used to be able to enjoy almost everything I chose. However, on my journey to become a novelist, something inside me changed. I don't know exactly when it happened, but I started reading books that everyone adores and I started noticing mistakes. Crippling mistakes.

The thing that makes a book successful isn't how well it's written, it's how well it touched the hearts and minds of the readers. This means that garbage books that are written poorly can do VERY well. They can become beloved classics. I see the need they are fulfilling when I read them and I know without a doubt that I don't have the same need.

It makes me feel like I'm less human than other people.

I sit in book club with a bunch of women gushing over how much they enjoyed a book that didn't do a single thing for me and I feel like an outsider. It's particularly painful because books are supposed to be my thing. They're supposed to be the thing that makes me special. Except, maybe books have made me too special because if I say what I think of the book at book club, I'm going to become the unicorn that gored all the normal ponies with the thing that makes me special. No one likes hearing what I have to say when I start ripping something apart, even though that is what you're supposed to do when you analyze literature. It's amazing how often a happy little reader has absolutely no idea what they're reading or what it means. Telling them is doing the opposite of touching their hearts and minds. It's repellent.

It's extra repellent, partly because our culture has taught people that reading is intrinsically noble and intellectual. That's fulfilling a need in a person right there. They're reading, therefore they're smart. It doesn't matter what they're reading. People want to feel smart. That's part of the reason they read. Absolutely no one likes being told that they sat there reading, getting a little high off their own intellectualism (since they're reading), for the entire book to have flown clear over their head.

That could turn a person off reading.

Obviously, that's the last thing I would ever want to do. Seriously. That is the ABSOLUTE last thing I would ever want to do.

That leaves me with two choices. I can sit there like an idiot in book club and say nothing, or I can stay home and remove the temptation.

"No, thank you. I can't join your book club."


About the Creator

Stephanie Van Orman

I write novels like I am part-printer, part book factory, and a little girl running away with a balloon. I'm here as an experiment and I'm unsure if this is a place where I can fit in. We'll see.

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