TCB: Lovely Megan, from the Book Discussion Scheme, is a very good friend of TCB from the beginning. They regularly donor quality books and they have some second-hand jewels for sale at their office in Colombo Street, the one with the cool mural. Today, we are asking her some questions about book clubs, recommendations and what to do when you do not like the book you are reading.
TCB: What is a book club? And how do they work?
MB: Book clubs (what we call book groups) are a great way to make reading more of a social activity. Men and women (we cater to high school age and adults) join or form small groups to talk about a nominated book. They usually meet up once a month at a venue of their choice; our scheme has participating groups all over New Zealand that meet in homes, libraries, cafes and elsewhere.
TCB: What is the role of BDS and how long has it been operating from Christchurch? How did you get involved?
MB: Our scheme is like a lending library, where member groups borrow a set of books and discussion notes for a set period of time (usually a month), at a small cost. The scheme started in 1973 with 8 book groups; we now supply more than 1200 groups nationwide and house a collection of 45,000 fiction and non-fiction books! I joined BDS as the Promotions person after the February 2011 earthquake; my focus at that time was to reach the milestone of 1000 concurrent groups. We achieved that in November 2013.
TCB: Sometimes you start reading a book and for whatever reason, you can tell that you are not going to like it. And sometimes guilt kicks in when you have the impulse to abandon it. What do you do?
MB: Many of our book group members say the best thing about reading other people’s book choices is that they get to broaden their reading taste. They like the fact they read outside of their default genres or comfort zone! Personally, some of the books I’ve struggled with at first turn out to be surprisingly addictive and I get hooked into the story.
If I’m honest, there are times when I want to read a particular type of book (I gravitate to inspiring stories and characters I can empathise with). I realise that life is too short to persevere with a book I am really struggling with. I’m lucky enough to have access to more than 900 titles at work, so I just move on to the next one!
TCB: What is your criteria to recommend a book?
MB: That it’s memorable. Whether that’s because I’m drawn to, or empathise with, a character and their circumstances, or because I learn something surprising about the world.
TCB: Which book would you recommend reading first to someone who has not read in a very long time? And why?
MB: Golly! Depends on age, I think. One of my all-time favourites is the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, but I think you need a certain maturity to relate to it and the author’s insight into human behaviour. It’s easy to read but has depth. A ‘tween book I literally cried over was the dystopian novel Delirium, by Lauren Oliver – but my nephews might prefer Station Eleven. There is always an element of hope in the books I refer people to.
TCB: What are you reading now? Is it a book that you would pick it up instinctively or is it new for you in some way ( a new genre, a writer you never read before, etc)?
MB: In my sick bed recently, I read The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami and the detective story The Beggar’s Opera by Peggy Blair. Neither author I was familiar with. I wanted to find out something about the colonial settlement of Florida and about Cuba’s little known sex trade. I was particularly drawn by Lalami’s engaging writing style and first-person narrative.
Thank you, Megan!
Megan Blakie is in charge of Promotions at Book Discussion Scheme
Megan Blakie photo credit Alex Lim.