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Seven years ago, one of my best girlfriends started a book club … A “serious” book club with “rules”. Unlike the book clubs I had attended in the past, this book club required reading the book prior to the meeting (specifically, at least 75% complete, only 1 skip per year) and then dedicated time to discuss the book when we met. I’ve never been an avid fiction reader, but my girlfriend talked me into giving it a try.

We started with two dozen interested women and ended up with about eight who committed to the first year. We took on books like The Nine, Anna Karenina, Practical Ethics, Slaughterhouse Five and Midnight’s Children. Reading the books was a BIG commitment (sometimes requiring late nights of cramming), but worth it because I enjoyed the conversation and company so much.

Since then, reading the books has become a lot harder, even as we’ve added some “easier” books. Like many of the women in my book club, I’ve gotten married and had kids while working a full time job. I’ve come very close to dropping out when life seemed too overwhelming and I couldn’t figure out how to get the book read or make time to attend the discussion. But these women have become some of my best friends, and the discussion every month is so engaging that I think about it for weeks following. Once I made it through the first few months of the second kid (and they gave a little leeway on the rules with maternity leave), I knew I was in for good. I love that my opinion of books expands and changes, usually appreciating it even more, after the engaging discussion.

I saw this article in the New York Times recently about book clubs and why people love them. It really resonated. It is a great way to find common ground for a discussion and provide new insight. Now I find myself asking new acquaintances, especially women, “Are you in a book club?”