Your Reading Life

My Phobia of Joining Book Clubs

My name is Rachel Goldberg, and I’m afraid of commitment.

I’ll spare you my pathologies regarding relationships, selecting a dental plan, and devoting myself wholly to just one brand of peanut butter. Rather, I’ve come to profess my phobia of joining book clubs.

It’s not that I’m greedy, really. We’re all people with needs, and looking out for one’s own interests, while certainly selfish, is also innate and sensible.

Picking one out from the bunch seems futile, unnatural, even distasteful. I never feel constricted per se while in a book club, but I wonder: What else is out there?

Through my total and utter scouring of all Googleable NYC book clubs and literary associations and public readings, I’ve determined that there are too many awesome readerly things going on in every neighborhood and at all times. Which is horrible. I simply can’t participate in all of them due to the constraints of space and time, and also, you know, occasionally engaging with activities outside of reading so as to maintain a normal lifestyle.

The ultimate crux of the issue, for me, is committing to a book club’s theme.

You’ve got your standard poetry book clubs and women writers book clubs, the usual Shakespeare and Classics groups, and still others for NY Times bestsellers and books-to-film (for those of us who can relate to the frantic under-the-wire reading just before the movie release/internet spoilers date arrives).

When taken all together, in the deep recesses of my mind I hear a faint Burgess Meredith outcry, glasses broken while hunched over on the library steps, “That’s not fair!”

One of my friends recently started a feminist book club in Brooklyn. As a former gender studies student and present day purveyor of Gloria Steinem axioms at cocktail parties, I joined instantly. But immediately after I accepted, which was a given, I wondered if I should be broadening my horizons to things that are perhaps not a given.

Since I naturally flock to women’s rights nonfiction, should I perhaps try dipping my toes into sci-fi? Refresh my middle school knowledge of the Greek tragedies with a library group in Queens? Find an e-graphic novel fanfic cult to join?

I’m definitely getting my kicks on as I brush up on de Beauvoir and dig into Susan Faludi’s critique of corporate 1980’s America. I have the next book club entered into my calendar in all caps, something usually only reserved for major life events like weddings and open bars during Fleet Week.

But still, I’ve got the itch. What else is out there for me? How can I possibly commit to just one when there are so many thrilling, exciting, heartbreaking adventures to read up on just outside the boundaries of my current book club?

The answer eludes me, and again I enter “underground book clubs nyc” into Google as the commitment-phobic literary masochist that I’ve become takes over, and I feel myself get that smiling cerebral sensation while the browser loads a world that’s out there for the taking.

About the Author

RACHEL GOLDBERG is New York-based writer and works in editorial at the start-up company SideTour. She is a feminist and social justice contributor at PolicyMic, occasional dating blogger and has a background in social media writing and producing. As an avid reader, she can always be found buried in a book on the subway. Originally hailing from Chicago, she studied creative writing, gender studies and art history at Indiana University. She also considers herself to be a rather accomplished peanut butter connoisseur. Visit the author on Twitter @rachfoot.

  • Emma @ Words And Peace

    I started my own book club for our block. we have between 8 to 12 members, they all love it. my solution: pot luck, meaning, each member share their favorite book of the previous month. we discover tons of new books, we have great discussions, it’s not unusual that at least 1 member has read the book you present. we have a great diversity of genres, from nonfiction to romance, and we have men and women, in fact several couples. we have been meeting every month for over 2 years now