From age 16 to 26 I was an active member of the Stockholm Tolkien Society (est. 1972). This charming association is organised around a schedule of annual feasts and a roster of themed activity guilds. There’s the Medieval Dance Guild, the Gaming Guild, the gluttonous Hobbit Guild, the erudite Friends of Daeron and many others. My favourite was — and is — the Book Guild.
Though I have long since dropped out of the Society’s main activities, I still gate-crash the monthly Book Guild now and then. Last night it convened at my place for dinner, tea and conversation about books. Many reading groups have all the members read and discuss the same book. This rarely works very well, since there are always a few participants who haven’t read the book and so can’t really take part. Back in the early 90s I became Guild Master and instead introduced a meeting format that is still in use: Bookaholics Anonymous.
“Hey everyone, I’m Martin, and I’ve read a few books since last time.”
What we do is that everyone in their turn confesses what they’ve read since the last meeting. No holds barred, no thematic restrictions, and everybody gets to chime in with comments as you talk. Though the guildfolk of course like Tolkien, it has turned out that the Guild’s most popular author is in fact Jane Austen. (Several core members are very well-read women.)
I usually participate only two or three times a year, so I tend to mention only the best reads I’ve had since my last visit. These are the good books I talked about last night:
- Will in the world. How Shakespeare became Shakespeare. Stephen Greenblatt 2004.
- Casino Royale. Ian Fleming 1953.
- The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy. Avram Davidson 1975.
- Collected Short Stories 1. (Penguin 1963.) W. Somerset Maugham 1920-45.
- The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Michael Chabon 2007.
- The Spook’s Apprentice. Joseph Delaney 2004. (This book was recommended to me by my 10-y-o son! I’m getting good reading advice from my kid!)
What about you, Dear Reader? Are you in a reading group? Got any recommendations to share?