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David

BGO Book Group

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The book group has waned and withered over the last year or so, which I've been sorry to see.

 

In fact, newer members may not even be aware of it, but every couple of months a book would be chosen that many members read and discussed together - much like a real life book group. It was the one part of the site where we had a more or less real-time read, as opposed to building up discussions of books over a longer period, as happens in the main areas of the board.

 

It's a new year and there are cold, snowy days when I'm sure many of us would feel as likely to participate in such a venture as we're going to, so perhaps it could be a BGO resolution to get this going again.

 

Up until now Adrian has run the book group. In fact there had been a slight resurgence of interest just before he disappeared. I have to say I'm not at all sure he'll be coming back and he had expressed his own declining interest in one of the threads. I sent a PM in November asking if he'd like to pass the baton on but never received a reply so I think the time has come to say we need a new hand at the reins.

 

I'd really like for this to be a non-mod if possible and I'm very open to suggestions about how to work it. Maybe we can even have several people who take it in turns to direct the read. There isn't much work involved - deciding on the choice of books, setting up a vote with blurbs about each read and perhaps taking an active role in getting discussion going. That said, though, perhaps you'll decide against votes and do it another way? Really, whatever goes!

 

So, I'd be grateful if people could share their thoughts about this. How should it be organised? How often should the reads take place? Indeed, is there enough interest to re-boot the group, since if no one really wants it then there's no point going to the effort. I do, however, think it's a good community-building endeavour and when good discussions get going it can be very satisfying.

 

Most of all, of course, would anyone be interested in taking this on? There's a lot of new blood on the board (so to speak...) since the group was going strong before, so maybe more recent members will feel inspired and have some fresh ideas?

 

Over to you...

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I admit that I was not always a faithful member of the book group but I was always interested in reading the opinions of the books chosen and tried to read as many of them as I could.

 

I think that this forum lacks something by not having a books that we are all reading at the same time and able to discuss while the experience is fresh in our mind. I also realise that for some, the Canongate read fulfilled that role.

 

If enough members want to resume the book group I would love to be involved. And, if no-one objects, I would be happy to facilitate.

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Although I only read about half of the BGO reads, I always looked through the books suggested and voted. Like Tagesmann I think the group has lost something since this element has lapsed. I would be more than happy for the group read to continue but hesitate to volunteer to facilitate because I am a silver surfer and not a competent one at that!! ;)

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Whilst on paper it sounds like a good idea for the board to have such a group, in practice it hasn't worked for a while. We have to ask ourselves if that was just due to the apathy of its nominal organiser or whether the BGO Book Group would be sadly missed if it was put out to pasture.

 

The malaise has in fact existed for even longer David suggests. If you look in the archive, you have to go back to before the 2007 crash to find a book that attracted more than a dozen or so posts, which doesn't strike me as an active level of discussion even just among the board's regular members. Whilst I can understand a thread started on a random book on the main board might not get far because few have read it, this shouldn't be the case with a dedicated book group where you'd hope several people should be in a position to discuss a title.

 

Admittedly, the Book Group has had to compete in the recent past with the Canongate Read, but it could be argued even that only generated discussion through people's feeling of obligation to read something because they were given a free copy.

 

From a personal point of view, although I did sometimes nominate titles for discussion, I have to confess that I only once took part in the group, which was with a title where my nomination won the poll. It turned out I was the only one who read it. Maybe I'm just bitter.

 

If the group is to continue, here are a couple of rules I know some real world groups use that I think might help:


  1. the person nominating the title, or winning the vote if there are multiple nominations, is obliged to start the discussion.
  2. people only nominate titles they themselves have already read. The gap between gathering votes and the start of the discussion gives people time to be distracted by something else. If a sub-forum is created once the book is agreed on and then even just one post about the book is put in there, things are already active and others can start to contribute as soon as they're ready.

I think my experience with "The Wind Up Bird Chronicle" would have been avoided if these two rules had been followed.

 

Ultimately, the problem is that, unlike a real world group, members here have no feeling of obligation to at least try reading the nominated book that membership of a real world book group really demands. It is too easy to drop out so I fear such a group is always going to struggle. I'm happy to be proved wrong, however!

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We have to ask ourselves if that was just due to the apathy of its nominal organiser

It was never my intention to suggest that. It's simply the reality that Adrian isn't around any more so I had to explain why I was opening it to others to take over.

 

Yes, it's been in decline for a while - perhaps my choice of a year or so was a bit arbitrary. It's rarely - if ever - had mass participation.

 

Still, that's why I also asked if people want it. All opinions welcome so thanks for that, Gram, and there's a lot of truth in what you say.

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I don't mean this, at all, to sound negative, but what I like about BGO (and why I sing its praises to real people) is that it's not a book group in the usual sense, so I don't feel any obligation to read a particular book. So, I'm unlikely to participate, although I have no objection to it existing as a part of the board, and I might join in if the mood takes me.

I do think the Canongate Read often serves the same purpose, but it offers less choice, I suppose.

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I've only ever participated in this once. I didn't really realise how it worked or that Adrian was the lead.

 

It doesn't mean I wouldn't participate in the future, but I'm not going to make a firm committment to particpate, because I feel it's a commitment I might easily break.

 

Tagesmann - I think you taking the lead is a great idea.

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Hi, I'd be interested in joining the group, as long as there was plenty of time to read the book, as I'd have to order them.

 

Also, I think that it is important to include not just challenging titles, but include titles that wouldn't intimidate people from participating (I'm not saying that this has happened, because I don't know about previous book choices).

 

I've been on other message boards which have had book groups and sadly, they diminished, which in my opinion is quite sad.

 

However, if this book group commences, I'd be happy to try and participate.

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I agree that having a real-time read together is what many people are searching for when they come to BGO. It was quite sad to see it disintegrate as it did. I think perhaps a book every couple of months is fair, and perhaps it would be good to include poetry and collections of short stories as well (maybe even non-fiction), for a bit of variety. I do think there should be some sort of obligation that if you vote for a particular choice, you ought to read and post about it, otherwise there's not much point.

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...and perhaps it would be good to include poetry and collections of short stories as well (maybe even non-fiction), for a bit of variety.

Oh now that's a good idea.

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Although I appreciate the goodwill aimed at getting the Book Group back up and running again, I can't really see how it can be any more successful at actually getting people to read and contribute to a discussion in a timely fashion. In the past, the most successful book discussion threads have been started in one of two ways. Either a current popular book is being widely read and people are being moved to share their thoughts, as is currently happening with Wolf Hall, or a book has been strongly advocated by someone and others have been inspired to see what all the fuss is about and then post, for example The Children's War.

 

I've tried to join in with previous discussions, but at the end of the day, I don't really like being told what to read!

 

Are the Canongate Reads still ongoing? I can't recall one for a while.

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Are the Canongate Reads still ongoing? I can't recall one for a while.

Yes. The next one's delayed because it hasn't been printed yet.

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I've tried to join in with previous discussions, but at the end of the day, I don't really like being told what to read!

I must admit, I am kind of with you Jen. As soon as I sit down to read a book I have to read, I immediately lose enthusiasm. I have to be in a particular mood to read the book I choose.

 

That said, very occasionally, in my RL BG (which I dip in and out of), I have had to read a book I wouldn't normally pick up and have loved it. Very occasionally.

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Funnily enough, I have been plucking up the courage to post something on the 'nominations....' thread for the past couple of evenings, in particular to ask when the next title would be chosen and how I might go about participating (provided there were no objections, of course).

 

I'd be very interested in joining in, as long as there would be plenty of time to finish the chosen book - "real life" has a habit of interrupting my reading schedule sometimes!

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I'm prety much of the same opinion as Minxminnie.

I think the strength of BGO is the open-ended threads, so that anyone can add to the discussions at any time (and this applies to archived threads from the group reads too).

 

I have so many books I want to read, and am getting through them so slowly, that I have given up three RL bookgroups, and am a very poor contributor to the quarterly one I still go to. I'm unlikely to join in the group reads unless it is for a book I am already interested in, but would like them to continue if they are wanted by others.

 

The Canongate Reads don't serve quite the same purpose, as the small number of books given away are only for subscribers and not necessarily available to buy until a later date.

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The Canongate Reads... are only for subscribers...

Not all subscribers.

 

Seriously, I feel a bit guilty about The Windup Bird Chronicle. As I've said elsewhere, I did vote for it. I'm a Murakami fan and was reading After Dark at about the time we were voting. But... well... After Dark is short. I very rarely find the time to read long books, just too many other commitments. I went to the bookstore to buy the Bird Chronicles and blanched when I saw how long it was. Something of that length really has to be something that grips me absolutely and personally, rather than a groupish sort of thing. Also, the only version I could find had type that was far too small for comfortable reading. I would still have been going with it now. So sorry about that.

 

There seemed to be some interesting discussion when we got onto that Arnold Bennett book about the Queen. I enjoyed the discussion even though I didn't like the book.

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Not all subscribers.
Indeed. Only UK subscribers, which means that it is important to continue a group read which would be open to all members who would like one.

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This is just an idea, but instead of nominating a specific book for members to all read, maybe you could choose a genre or something a bit more open, then people can talk the genre or books? It may not work, but I just thought that this idea might encourage people who are not keen on being told which books to read, to give some freedom?

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I think promotion probably has something to do with it as well, i.e. some browsers might not be aware that a group read is going on - I am a regular lurker but sometimes the book group read would pass me by as when I come to the site I usually just scroll right down to the bottom and go to the most recent posts option and read those. Or perhaps I've just not been paying proper attention and there was a period where I didn't log in very often. If I'm wrong ignore me! If we did one again we could have something on the front page directing people straight there/inviting them to vote etc?

 

I like the idea of a book group, although I agree with everyone who says they wouldn't want to commit to having to partake each time - I wouldn't either - but I do think it might be a worthwhile addition to the forum so that there's something for everyone - both open ended threads AND immediacy. It can be frustrating when you read a book, post on it then no one replies for a year...

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If we did one again we could have something on the front page directing people straight there/inviting them to vote etc?

That's a very good point, Seraphina. Before starting this thread I had a chat with the mods about it and Flingo came up with the excellent suggestion of sending out an e-mail promoting each new read to members, just as I currently do for the Canongate Read. That way everyone will have a personal reminder of the event.

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