(Originally published Oct. 12, 2010)
A couple of years ago, a friend invited me to join a book club in Phoenix. My wife already belonged to two book clubs, and I had to admit, she was reading more than I was and was getting exposed to some of the most talked-about books of the day. So I took my friend up on his offer and opened a door to a great collection of literature and friends.
Every month, anywhere from four to 10 of us meet at someone’s house to discuss the book we chose to read the month before. (We’re not nearly as organized as one of my wife’s clubs, which has one meeting a year just to nominate and vote on books to read over the next year.) I’ve read books I never would have selected on my own, including (affiliate links):
- Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee.
- Solar by Ian McEwan.
- Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel.
- This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind by Ivan Doig.
I’m also exposed to people and views I normally wouldn’t seek out. Our book club members cover the full spectrum of political views, from left to right and all points in between. They represent a variety of occupations – medicine, law, real estate development, financial planning, public relations, teaching and football coaching. They come from a variety of religious backgrounds. In short, they represent a cross section of society that I’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in my day-to-day life.
In this increasingly polarized society, our tendency is to seek out people who think and talk like us and read what reinforces our thoughts and beliefs. We’re losing our ability to hear and respect other people and to take time to understand their points of view. It’s no wonder that we’re losing our nationhood and becoming a collection of warring tribes.
The only way I see to stop that trend is to find places to engage with one another respectfully, civilly and thoughtfully. Something as simple as a book club provides a great forum for doing so. If you start one, or join one, focus on diversity of membership as a priority. It can help open up your mind and give you some new perspectives on life.
Related Reading (Affiliate Link)
Thanks for visiting. While you’re here, please look around the site. You can subscribe via e-mail or RSS feed. The tools to do so are at the top of the right-hand column. To share or retweet the entry, use the buttons below. You can follow me on Twitter: @peterfaur.