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Book club break-ups: Readers share their stories

A couple weeks ago, I asked readers to write in about their book club splits. I received several telling anecdotes about ditching groups and ousting members.

It seems that differing motivation levels, the inability to have an open discussion, and conflicting reading preferences are all common occasions for separation.

Some book clubbers, it seems, don’t want to be in a book club so much as a club.

An Edina woman’s daughter quit her book group when the member hosting the upcoming meeting suggested skipping book selection and making it a purely social event instead.

“I don’t really like reading,” the host confessed. Other members agreed.

The woman’s daughter promptly sought out a new book group.

A Linden Hills book clubber I interviewed said two women were dismissed from her book club for twisting debates into personal attacks.

The group relished a heated discussion but was offended when the women branded others’ opinions invalid or unimportant.

By making blanket statements such as, “Anyone who thinks otherwise is just ignorant,” the expellees curtailed dialogue and fostered resentment. Meetings became uncomfortable and gloomy.

Eventually, the majority of the group decided to take back the joy.

Conflict over reading choices is another familiar antecedent to book club desertion.

A West Metro group — now named the Beer-Drinkin’ Ladies Book Club — intended to be mixed gender, but the few men who joined quickly left, surprised that the club read serious literature.

One man, for example, showed up to a meeting with a Popular Mechanics magazine and was dismayed to discover they didn’t consider it potential reading material.            

A St. Paulite wrote in with a similar story. An active member of her public book club made a dramatic exit after people declined to read the mechanical repair manual she had chosen.

That her instructional manual was the first book selection ever rejected was particularly wounding.

The group was disappointed to lose a vital contributor, but an e-mail ripe with pain confirmed that there was no opportunity for reconciliation.

Hopefully the departed member found another book club. Or maybe a shop class.

Another BCC reader wrote in about having the reverse problem: she wanted to read challenging literature, but the other members always chose trash.

The book club “brought out the worst in me,” she said. “I’m ordinarily a very nice, compassionate, and kind woman, but I guess I am a book snob.”

“The group was just a bad match,” she concluded.

But how do you quit your book club without insult?

As one reader described, “I left by just begging off….I kind of made excuses and then stopped calling. It was a chicken way out, but what was I going to say? ‘You are all shallow and stupid?'”

Breaking up with your book club can be hard to do. Especially if you are close to a few or all members of the group.

If you need to interact with members in other settings, such as the office or church, dumping your reading group can be downright tricky.

There’s no set etiquette to follow when quitting your club, and the situation can be exceedingly uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Will a polite email to group members suffice? Perhaps a thoughtful, hand-written letter or an in-person resignation is more tactful.

Sometimes, the best option is to lie — claim that other commitments are crowding in on your personal time and attending book club isn’t feasible.

 Frankly, the standard “too much on my plate” excuse can be the most diplomatic way to bow out.

If you are joining a new club, this explanation can be swapped for the “it’s just not the right fit” line.

Either way, don’t expect to stay friends.

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