Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book Groups and Inner Libraries

I will be meeting up with a couple of friends this evening. And we will talk about books. Instead of all reading the same book, we bring what we're reading and have sort of a Show-and-Tell, talking about the books we've liked, as well as ones we haven't.

I like this better than what seems to be a more conventional book group, where everyone reads the same book and then talks about it. These groups have resulted in the ubiquitous, and to me annoying, readers' group guides at the end of so many books these days. The readers' guide questions often seem to be comprehension questions, the kind of questions a teacher would devise to make sure that the students read the book (and I oughta know, I used to be a teacher). These kind of questions seem to suck the life out of a book. If I have the choice of getting a book with or without a readers' guide, I'll choose without.

In How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard, the author talks about our inner libraries…
“We might use the term inner library to characterize the set of books – a subset of the collective library – around which every personality is constructed, and which then shapes each person’s individual relationship to books and to other people…
“That it is that in truth we never talk about a book unto itself; a whole set of books always enters the discussion through the portal of a single title, which serves as a temporary symbol for a complete conception of culture. In every such discussion, our inner libraries – built within us over the years and housing all our secret books – come into contact with the inner libraries of others, potentially provoking all manner of friction and conflict.
“For we are more than simple shelters for our inner libraries; we are the sum of these accumulated books. Little by little these books have made us who we are, and they cannot be separated from us without causing suffering. …comments that challenge the books in our inner libraries, attacking what has become a part of our identity, may wound us to the core of our being.”

The whole inner library thing is really sticking with me…what a perfect term. We all have inner libraries, and what an interesting job I have to be able to talk to people about their inner libraries, as well as my own.

So tonight I'll be bringing:
Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger (almost finished, am enjoying it)
Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
Cowboy and Wills by Monica Holloway
Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (haven't read it yet, got an advance reader copy)

I'm interested to see what my friends will be bringing!

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