[From September Issue 2013]


More and more people are attending book clubs and getting together to exchange opinions with each other about a book they’ve brought along. A variety of groups exist, including those that read a designated book by an appointed date and then discuss their impressions of that book, and clubs where members introduce their favorite books. Some clubs are held for just one hour on a weekday morning, and other clubs meet for longer on the weekend. The size of a club can range in scale from ten or under, to larger organizations with hundreds of members.

Alice KENNEY, an American living in Tokyo, started up a book club named Better Read Than Dead about five years ago. She had attended a different book club, but she wanted to create a book club with a more welcoming atmosphere. Currently there are 10-12 regular attendees and many attendees of various nationalities. The club gathers once a month and members vote to decide on the book they’ll discuss.

“In the States, book clubs used to have an elite or un-cool image,” says club assistant organizer Daniel SIMMONS. By making them more informal and fun, Oprah WINFREY, a famous TV personality in the U.S., helped to popularize book clubs. “Oprah’s Book Club” was established and books she reviewed became bestsellers. This meant that the number of book clubs dramatically increased nationwide.

“We discuss books in English, but we have some Japanese members,” says Simmons. “Since it is not easy to get English books in Japan, some members download digital versions. Also, members do not always have to read the designated books in English. For example, when the designated book was Anna Karenina by TOLSTOY, some Japanese members read the Japanese translation. We also enjoy Japanese books, too, such as MURAKAMI Haruki’s Norwegian Wood.”

Not only do book clubs discuss books, but some also host lectures by the author. HORI Tetsuya invited bestselling author, MATANO Narutoshi – who wrote a book aimed at businessmen named “Things you Ought to Know by Your Third Year of Entering a Company: a Professional’s Textbook” – to give a lecture to his book club. The participants discussed the book and many people shared the view that the event was “a great opportunity to rethink the way I work.”

“The reason I started these lectures is because when I discussed books at my book club, I had a strong desire to ask the author questions,” says Hori. “I feel like it’s worth it after hearing that the attendees enjoyed hearing directly from the author.”

Book clubs are attractive because they can allow us to open up to new viewpoints by discussing the book with others. It’s possible to meet people of different ages and professions, people you’d never come into contact with during your everyday life, and, because there is a common subject, people meeting for the first time can have an animated discussion.

Better Read than Dead


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