Alice Osborn's Book Club

What’s the best way to become the strongest writer or literary editor you can be? Join a book club that reads a lot of literary fiction and nonfiction. The strongest writers/editors are always the strongest readers. If you live close to Raleigh, NC, I’d suggest you join my book club, the Wonderland Book Club. I started this monthly daytime club four years ago when I knew that with two kids I wasn’t going to read on my own—I needed a bunch of accountability partners. We have a regular group of members so there’s continuity and we bring in guest speakers, who also happen to be our book that month, for fresh insight and inspiration. If you aren’t so lucky to live in Raleigh, then I’ve got several tips for you based on a decade of book club experience.

Here’s what to look for when joining a book club to make you a better writer.

• Find a club that meets during the day—either a weekday or weekend—there’ll be less likelihood of drinking and getting off track from your literary knowledge. Save the wine for book launch parties!

• Check out your potential club’s website (OK, do they even have a website?) and study their book list. Is the list filled with both classic and current literature? Do they lean on a particular genre that may not lead to good discussions? Do they select the books all at one time or only at the end of every meeting? Is their website listing their books from 2004? If yes, move on.

• Does the club meet in a public space like a library or bookstore, or does it meet at a private home? I’ve found that unless the club has a theme and has been around a long time, meeting at someone’s house for book club is another word for “party on a school night.”

• When you visit their website, do you get the feeling that they want the members to grow and explore new reading finds? One of the great joys of a book club is reading something you would not ordinarily read.

• Does the club welcome guest speakers who are either teachers or authors? This is big.

• Now after you visit, did the book club leader greet you with enthusiasm? Was there a reading guide to follow, or was the conversation easily sidetracked. Was there a discussion leader? Did the folks let each other speak or did they talk over each others’ heads? Were all of the members able to contribute? Did most of the members finish the book?

By becoming a regular at a good book club you’ll quickly notice subtle changes. You’ll increase your vocabulary, you’ll feel more comfortable figuring out the author’s theme/intention and you’ll be better able to articulate why or why you didn’t enjoy the book. You’ll get Dickens, Steinbeck and Austen. You’ll be upleveled and your life will never be the same. You’ll be a superstar writer and editor!

Your Turn:

Friends, what did I leave off this list? What makes a great book club for writers/editors?