I’ve never belonged to a book club. Every book club that I’ve every heard of has consisted only of women. If you do a Google image search for book club, you’ll find that all of the adult group shots are women-only. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but male book clubbers seem to be a tiny minority. I’m not declaring some secret feminist conspiracy here or anything, but it’s interesting to me that men never seem to participate.
I found this brief history of book clubs, but it doesn’t examine the gender trend:
Book discussions are as old as books themselves, and certainly became more frequent with the invention of the printing press around 1455. The literary salons of Paris helped shape the cultural scene of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Encyclopedia Americana defined them as “fashionable assemblage(s), generally of literary, artistic, and political figures, held regularly in a private home. ” The hostesses were often authors in their own right, like Mlle. de Scudery (1607-1701), Mme. Francoise Scarron (1635-1719) , and Mme. de Stael (1766-1817).
Clearly women read more books than men, and they read more fiction (not a prerequisite for a book club, but I’ve never heard of a non-fiction book being discussed at one). Oprah and her mostly-female audience have probably reinforced this trend. The book club seems to be playing some important role in our culture, but I’m not sure what it is.
In truth, I’m all for single-gender organizations. I think men and women ought to have places they can go where they only interact with others of their gender. Throughout human history we’ve had these places, so why are we denying them now? Admittedly, history has been biased towards groups of men, so perhaps the book club is an equalizing factor.
Men, do you belong to a book club? Have you ever? I read lots of books, and I wouldn’t mind discussing them in a semi-organized fashion. I could try to find a club that would take me, but I fear that I might not care for their choice of books. Maybe us Y-chromosomers need to start a club of our own?