How can you learn about the philosophy of Confucius, the birth of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Lady Jane- the nine day Queen of England, a psychiatrist’s journey through post-partum depression with electroconvulsive treatment, and the essentials of biblical worship, all in one night? I’ll tell you how, with coffee and brownie sundays to boot! The answer is in the book review club.
One of my goals for last year was to get more women both reading and talking about good books. Although I love to read, I’ve always found the ordinary book clubs unattractive, mainly because I didn’t want to read their books (I know this sounds horribly postmodern, but bear with me). It’s not that their books were bad (albeit a bit predictable), but as a busy mom of three I wanted my precious reading time to be more purposefully invested than the top ten, best sellers list. And herein lies the genius of the book review club…everyone reads a different book. That’s right; you read whatever book you would like to share by review for the monthly meeting.
There are many benefits to this eclectic method. Many of my friends and family would express interest in being more disciplined readers, but never really make it a priority. When you know that you have thirty days to read and prepare a review for your book, the motivation takes on new significance. Not only will you begin reading more, but you will become a more active reader. When we share with someone else, we enhance our own memory, understanding, and critiquing skills; all the while encouraging one another to read, think, learn, and get together for coffee.
As rewarding as it is to benefit from our own reading, our recompense is multiplied as we profit from what others are reading. My friend Dana’s passion for the Tudor family has been very insightful. Although it is not a passion that we share, I have a new appreciation for her interest. Her book review on Lady Jane Grey, by Faith Cook, was very thorough, providing a timeline throughout the family tree of the Tudor line. Shockingly, some women in the group never knew Bloody Mary was anything more than a brunch beverage. Dana opened up her review asking if we could name any martyrs of the faith, and ended by detailing the hard, much forgotten life of a sixteen year old girl whose knowledge and steadfastness to the Lord puts most of us to shame. Dana’s passion that evening rubbed off on my eleven year old daughter, a passer-by who was captivated by her presentation. She has now read most of the Young Reader’s series on the Tudor women. This leads to yet another benefit, in finding new books to read that may never have been in your radar.
The interesting thing about it is that I get to know my friends and family in a more intimate way. Sure, we might mention in conversation something about what we are reading, but this is an opportunity to really share our thoughts and interests with people who genuinely care. My cousins, Crystal and April, are both moms continuing their education in college right now. With no time to read books of her own choosing at this time, Crystal reviewed one of her assignments for her Eastern History class. It has been very enlightening for her to compare and contrast her own faith with eastern religion taught in a secular university. April just received her Masters in counseling. As someone who has a special compassion for those struggling with depression, she connected on a deeper level with her read through a licensed therapist’s serious battle. Since the meeting, I have found more to talk to my cousins about than the usual tired-mom stuff. I believe the book review club is strengthening my relationships.
Whether we realize it or not, we are always continuing our education. The question is, how are we being shaped and formed? Where are we getting our information from? Your education didn’t stop with a diploma, degree or specialized license. It’s time to evaluate our main sources of learning. Unwittingly, it could be the likes of Oprah, Facebook, reality T.V., or talk radio. In saying that, books for pure entertainment are welcome reviews in our book club as well. But now we are discussing things like what the author is glorifying, our own presuppositions and expectations, truth, genre, and execution. You may have read for entertainment, but now you are sharpening your critiquing skills in the process. So this is not a revolutionary idea, but a great way to engage in sharing our reading interests with one another as well as sharpening our minds a bit.