Our Reading Lives

I’m Too Slow a Reader for Book Clubs

Matt Grant

Staff Writer

Matt Grant is a Brooklyn-based writer, reader, and pop culture enthusiast. In addition to BookRiot, he is a staff writer at LitHub, where he writes about book news. Matt's work has appeared in Longreads, The Brooklyn Rail, Tor.com, Huffpost, and more. You can follow him online at www.mattgrantwriter.com or on Twitter: @mattgrantwriter

I’ve always wanted to be in a book club.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “It’s not that hard! There’s a ton of them out there, just join one! Or make your own!”

It’s not that I haven’t tried. I have. Several times, actually. At work, at church, with friends. All of them either never actually got off the ground or petered out after a certain amount of time.

I even went so far as checking out the pick for Book Riot Insider’s Q1 Group Read, which I myself voted on, from the library. The Group Read began. I never cracked open the book. I’m not exactly sure why this keeps happening. The desire to be a part of a book club is there. But when it comes to actually doing it, I just can’t bring myself to jump in.

Most recently, a friend suggested we read a new book together, which I enthusiastically agreed to. We each got the book and started reading at the same time. We agreed on the amount of chapters to read together. But it wasn’t long until my friend far surpassed me in the book, and I was left in the dust. It was around that time that I realized what my problem is: I’m much too slow a reader to be a part of a book club.

Or maybe it’s not that I’m slow, it’s that I’m distracted. I get too distracted by other books. I’ll be halfway or partially through a book, and then I’ll read a review or someone will suggest another book that sounds awesome, and I’ll go, “I want to read that too!” But rather than wait until I’ve finished my current book like a normal person, I’ll just pick up that new book and start reading it. It’s a problem.

For instance, I just checked my Goodreads account. There are currently 11 books sitting on my “Currently Reading” shelf. You read that right: eleven. Am I actually reading all 11 books right now? No, of course I’m not. I didn’t even remember I started half of these books until I checked just now. Thank goodness I decided to write this post or I’d probably have forgotten them forever.

As you can imagine, this way of reading doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in fellow book club members. If there was an Unfinished Book Club or a Read Whatever You Want Book Club or even an I’ll Get To This When I Can Book Club, sign me up! But sadly, most book clubs expect you to actually, you know, read the book that they choose and follow along at a specific pace. Which I get. That’s sort of the point of reading books with other people.

And that’s just it, the one aspect of reading books with other people that I can’t seem to get my mind around: a book club isn’t about me or my pace or even necessarily my book of choice. It’s about trading in my reading habits and preferences for the collective benefit of enjoying a book with a community. It’s about putting aside the next book that I really want to read to try a title or an author that I’ve never heard of before. Reading something I normally wouldn’t and being able to talk about it with other people is what appeals to me the most about being a part of a book club.

So I haven’t give up all hope. One day, once these 11 books have been cleared from my reading shelf, I’m confident I’ll find a book club that will be a nice balance of books I’m interested in and at a pace I can keep up with. And if not, I’ll just have to learn to adjust.

Maybe I just need to to only read one book at a time.

Yeah, probably not.