There is this need these days to analyze and talk about what we are reading and looking at a book from every possible perspective. And thanks to the wonders of technology, all of this can be done while curled up on one’s couch, still in your pyjamas.
Welcome to the era of virtual book clubs.
But is this what reading is all about?
Wasn’t reading an intensely personal experience where a particular book became a part of you?
Has it now evolved into a collective experience?
Suchitra Ramachandran is a Carnegie Mellon doctoral student in computational neuroscience studying brain mechanisms that might underlie how we learn to read. One of her dream projects is to open a library-bookstore-café. She created Drones Club—a book club on Facebook as a sort of virtual world precursor to this dream.
Suchitra says, ‘While there is a pleasure in reading and retreating into the worlds created by the author, there is as much (if not more) fun in talking about your favorite characters and plots, wondering why this author decided to take the story this way or that, debate ideas, hear about new authors from friends who are passionate fans.’
What fascinates her about social reading, ‘is understanding what different books do for different people. Chetan Bhagat and Twilight may not be high art, but there are people who appreciate and enjoy it. The books do something for them that Wodehouse, Kundera and Murakami don’t.’
One of the most common pieces of advice doled out to writers is to read and of course, talk about their book. And what better forum for this than a book club?
So does being part of the Azure Book Club help author Sumeetha Manikandan?
‘Though the initial idea was to promote my book ‘The Perfect Groom’, I enjoyed my interactions with the group members and many have become my friends,’ says Sumeetha.
Creative Art Therapist Shahla Nikpour who is working on starting a book club in El Salvador says there have been times when she has vehemently disagreed with other members. ‘But that is the beauty of book clubs too, having those disagreements, books bring out the passion in people,’ she says.
From different perspectives to making friends and tasting the passion, book clubs are more than just forums to intellectualize. What do you think? Would you rather read and introspect or are you ready to join a club?
Shweta Ganesh Kumar