Book Club

Book clubs: food, friends and fun! Oh, and books.In association with the fantabulous DOUBLE GIVEAWAY I’m doing with Heather Vogel Frederick, as promised, I looked into a real life Mother-Daughter Book Club. (Remember, this was after my no-good bad day when I showed up at my own usually just-plain-old-adults book club to find that the ladies had brought their kids and they’d all read Travel to Tomorrow!). So, inspired by that book club meeting and Heather’s Mother-Daughter Book Club series, below is my interview with a real life mother-daughter book club! I hope you get enough ideas to start your own book club. Even if it’s not limited to just moms and daughters (dads, brothers, cousins? step-somethings?), a book club is a fun way to share what we love most: family, friends and books! (Oh, and food.)

Where did you first get the idea to do a mother/daughter book club?
Well, right from the start is where our common pal, Heather Vogel Frederick, comes into play.  About 3 years ago one summer’s day while sitting poolside watching Esther, my then 11 yr. old daughter, taking her swimming lessons, I got bored and picked up the new book she’d just bought from the bookstore for something to read.  I really (embarrassingly) had to honestly admit that I had not been an avid reader of fiction, and certainly not children’s/tween fiction books.  That book was Heather’s first book The Mother-Daughter Book Club, just out that year.  I really got into the book fast and very quickly became so hooked on those characters, and really developed a personal “friendship” with all of them and their adventures.  It was so funny at the time, because I wouldn’t give Esther her book back until I’d finished the entire thing. Lol!  About a month or so later I was doing dishes or something and started thinking again about those characters and how much I missed the girls.  Then I started thinking about how fun it might be to start a real life mother-daughter book club with Esther.  That was the spark, and I had no idea how tremendously popular and already widespread those clubs had been, worldwide.

Heather ended up coming in-person to our very first book club meeting!  It was totally random, but she had been planning to visit her son in college near where we live during the month we had scheduled our meeting.  She offered out of the blue to physically attend and I decided to keep her visit a surprise from all our girls.  She showed up and our girls about fainted!  Since Heather lives in Oregon, [of course] no one expected her to be able to come to Missouri to our very first meeting.  That set the bar for all the meetings to follow – especially since she was the author that inspired the book club in the first place!  We’ve since spoken to several authors both via phone and Skype.
Who was more enthusiastic initially about the idea of a mother-daughter book club — you or your daughter?
I think honestly, it was me!  I told her about the idea and she seemed very interested, but I don’t think she truly believed I would carry through with it or how it might really come about.
Have you noticed any differences in your relationship to your daughter since being in a book club together?
Well, from the beginning I really feel it has brought us even closer than we already had been.  Just the dynamics of a mother-daughter book club experience dictates that this is so.  Depending upon how each chooses to read the books, whether together or separate, the content and story enable conversation between each other about the books, and you are a couple, a team, when joining together with the other moms and daughters for book club meetings to discuss the stories.  It’s just been a good experience for both of us.
How many other moms and daughters are in your book club?
From the beginning I think we started out with 11 mom/daughter couples.  Since then, our count has dwindled to as low as our current 7 couples total.  Some come more often than others, due to conflicts with the girls’ goings-on, etc.  We have all agreed that we generally like keeping our group to about 10 or so couples.  This has been stated in “how-to” books on book clubs as a good, workable number to have for such a group.
What books have you read that you recommend to others who want to start a mother-daughter book club? What kinds of books do you look for?
Oh, there have been quite a few good ones.  First of all, of course, Heather’s Mother-Daughter Book Club series,  we’ve also read two of Frances O’Roark Dowell’s books,  The Secret Language of Girls and The Kind of Friends We Used To Be,  our first kind of “teen” novel was Robin Brande’s Fat Cat; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimon; oh, and we even read the first novel my young 19 yr. old nephew wrote last year, called Amender (currently unpublished)!  That was fun, I didn’t give it away that the author was my nephew and he showed up at our meeting to be drilled and giggled at by a room full of young teen girls and their moms, haha!  I really could go on and on listing some great stories.  I think about them and they bring memories of our meetings, comments people made, things we did, what we ate! :)  As a group, we have in the past generally looked for good stories that are age appropriate, and more the “feel good” stories that girls might like.  Now as our girls are getting older, our tastes are also getting more varied, and we’re branching out a little more into some more colorful, realistic stories and books.

How many books a year do you read and is there a resource to finding books?
Again, this has changed with the years.  We first started out reading a book a month, with a meeting to discuss each book also taking place monthly.  We gradually went to every 6 weeks, and now we have decided to read a book and meet once every 2 months.  It seems like such a long span in between, but with our girls’ (and moms) crazy schedules this year, we decided we needed to slow things down with our commitment to reading for book club.  After all, this is supposed to be a fun experience that we want to look forward to, not another commitment we feel obliged to rush to get done (although we all still admit to rushing to finish the book sometimes at the last minute, etc.)!  As for a resource for finding books, I started researching great locations online to share with the gals for finding great books.  We’ve used the libraries’ websites (they also have great book kits to check out with complete notes and reading guides included with kit to include approx. 10 copies of a book, etc.), many different reading lists from other book clubs online and bloggers, and Cindy Hudson’s Mother-Daughter Book is another awesome resource for anything and everything you’d ever want/need to know about running a mother-daughter book club!  If you haven’t yet heard of her or visited her site, you should.  It’s a great resource.

It can’t be easy to make time to read books and meet as a club. What makes it worth the time?
Well, we’ve been pretty relaxed about not having too many rigid rules altogether, so if something happens to where someone can’t finish a book or make a meeting, we are all pretty forgiving.  I’ve waffled on that at times and have recently softened my opinion on the rule that “If someone doesn’t read the book, they shouldn’t bother coming to the meeting.”  At the end of the day, we are all friends, and just meeting, visiting, and hearing about the book from the others is good enough.  More often than not, if someone has not read the book or finished, they leave the meeting feeling a renewed energy to go and finish it, or kick themselves because they would’ve loved to have finished it upon hearing the ending or something. Haha!  In general, our motto is “Read, and come discuss if you can make it.  Someone will be here!” 😀

I’ll just end by saying that we follow the “tried and true” procedure of most mother-daughter book clubs by having each mother-daughter couple choose the book themselves each time, then it is also their meeting to plan and host.  This gives each couple “ownership” in the club, and the girls love hosting the others.  We try to have the girls “hands-on” in the planning of their own meetings as much as possible, and that has gotten easier as they’ve gotten older.  We have, in the past, had each host couple hold their meetings in their own homes, but we’ve also used parks when nice outside, library meeting rooms, the Main Street Books store upstairs loft in St. Charles, MO (Vickie is so nice to us!), and church basements.  Right now we’ve lost our adopted “homebase” church meeting location and will be looking for alternate plans.  We’ve found that even though meeting in our individual homes is cozier and more personal, it’s also a huge hassle at times for the moms to fret about cleaning and preparing food for the meetings, etc.  Victims of our fast-paced society.  We have also, at times, not always agreed on how our club should handle “extra” activities.  In the beginning, I always envisioned a very active club where we read books and do activities associated with the stories to enrich and make them come alive.  These are called “extension” activities and can be anything from doing a craft associated with the book to attending a play or something like that.  The other moms haven’t always been willing to be so active, and have made it clear that with this group, they simply like to read a book and meet to talk about it.  We still try to make the meetings fun and include fun things, but our outings and extras have all but stopped due to all our busy schedules.

Thanks for your time and thoughtful answers, real-life Mother-Daughter Book Club! What great tips! Hope you all found this helpful. Now…go win yourself Heather’s latest Mother-Daughter Book Club book, Home for the Holidays, and the new Fifties Chix book, Travel to Tomorrow here.