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Author Topic: Okay...YOU Do It, Then...No? Then STOP Talking...  (Read 6731 times)

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Okay...YOU Do It, Then...No? Then STOP Talking...
« on: September 26, 2013, 10:44:57 AM »
So, my immediate supervisor said "Would anyone like to help set up a book club?"  And like an idiot, I said "Sure."  "Great," he said.  "Don't bother me with the details, do what you want and I will back whatever you do."

That lasted approximately two minutes after I picked a book (whose name escapes me now) and was told "That book is depressing.  Maybe you should pick something off of Oprah's book list."  I responded with "Have you checked out Oprah's book list?  It's what Socrates read right before he drank the hemlock."  "Well, pick any book but not that one.  How about...[name of book we both loved but which I know isn't going to attract any readers.]"  I said "Okay" and advertised the heck out of it.  (We even got a mention on the radio and I didn't even ask for that!)

So, the book club publicity attracted three people, two of whom are staff members and one who is the local resident artistic kook.  None of them liked the book and were very vocal about it.  Local resident Artistic Kook requested that we read a literary prize winner.  I agreed to that since the "popular mainstream" book didn't fly.

The other members agreed as well.

Now one of the other members is complaining that she doesn't want to read the book because it is too violent and immediate supervisor is saying "That book isn't going to fly at all."  I totally agree, but I stood my ground and said "Look, we agreed to let the next person choose a book and she chose this."  "You have to tell her you're changing it."

Yes, because it's SOOOOO easy to reason with Artistic Kook.  (Last year there was a similar incident where Stonecold and I asked Artistic Kook to do a daily reading of a book over the PA system for a half hour....and the staff wanted me cremated....after complaining that we never try ANYTHING clever or different. And I had to be the one to tell Artistic that she was out.)

THIS time I said "I agree this book is going to tank like the other one did, but guess what?  I'm running the show and I am NOT going to be the one who tells Artistic the book sucks.  If YOU want to take over running the club, then YOU can tell her and YOU can choose the book and the theme.  But as long as I am running it, I am going with the book that was suggested--I think it's one of Oprah's anyway--and I am not going to argue with the woman who chose it."

The subject wasn't exactly changed and the consensus was "Okay, do what you think is best."

As ghastly as this new book is, it has won all kinds of awards and the whole point of the book club was to step outside your comfort zone and read things that MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE. 

So, did I do good?  Would you have buckled and told Artistic we were going to read less-violent novel with happier theme?  Or would you have said "Look, if you want me to do it and don't want to be involved, then let me do it and don't get involved"?

Library Dragon

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Re: Okay...YOU Do It, Then...No? Then STOP Talking...
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2013, 10:59:26 AM »
I think you were fine.  It's hard to deal with the Book Group Bully, whether it's the supervisor or Artistic Kook.  "Happier theme" books often don't stretch the reader.  Unless your book group is "cozy books that don't challenge" IMO you're better off starting with a wide variety of themes and styles.  That way no one is presuming you won't read anything without trauma, curse word, etc. 

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Re: Okay...YOU Do It, Then...No? Then STOP Talking...
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2013, 10:24:20 AM »
Why not have a meeting and the group comes to a mutual consensus on how books are chosen?  Like maybe you/boss choose the first one and then people rotate?


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Re: Okay...YOU Do It, Then...No? Then STOP Talking...
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2013, 03:19:16 PM »
Sounds like two slightly different problems: micro-managing boss, and needing a system for choosing a book.  A decision was made about problem 2 and you stuck by it.  Push back was needed for problem 1 and you gave it.  I think you did well at handling both.


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Re: Okay...YOU Do It, Then...No? Then STOP Talking...
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2013, 01:30:25 AM »
This is a tricky situation. While I generally think that your system for picking books is acceptable (you alternate who chooses), I do think that it's wise to consider vetoes in some circumstances. An example would be if something is a trigger for one member. I don't know if this was the case with this book/person or not, but it is something to keep in mind. Keep in mind that something that is "ghastly" as an abstract idea is a heck of a lot worse to someone who is going through it (or who has gone through it). Reading about it and then discussing it with others could go way beyond "challenging." It's one thing to have a book bring you to tears, it's another to have it give you a panic attack or breakdown. This may sound like an exaggeration, but PTSD is a very real thing.

Assuming that this isn't the case here (and perhaps even if it is, though that's not a very sympathetic thing to do), there is one alternative you didn't mention: let the dissenting person sit out for a month. If someone objects to a theme or topic, they can take a one-month break. 

Because the book club has multiple members (and the discussions aren't going to be very good if one or more members doesn't actually read the darned thing), it might be wise to ask whoever's turn it is to come up with three choices and then try to come to a consensus on which one to read. Another idea is to pick a genre and ask everyone to bring a suggestion within that genre and then figure out which one the group wants to read. If someone has a serious issue with the book (say, they won't be able to buy the new release hardcover version, there's a theme that is actually traumatic for them, they don't think they'll be able to read a twenty-five-hundred page book in a month, etc.), they can bring it up in discussion.

As for dealing with your boss, I'm assuming that you used hyperbole in recounting your interactions. If not, I think your tone was quite combative. I wouldn't speak to a peer that way, let alone someone who employed me. Yes, if this book club isn't part of your work duties and the boss let you organize, he should step back. However, I'd assume that the reason he brought it up with you is that one of the other book club members went to him instead of you with a concern. Tell him to ask members to go directly to you with their questions and concerns.

An aside: I really don't think the point of a book club is to "read things that make you uncomfortable." Read new authors and genres? Yes. But I would quickly leave a book club if it seemed like the organizers were going out of their way to pick the most upsetting books they could find.
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Re: Okay...YOU Do It, Then...No? Then STOP Talking...
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2013, 05:51:26 AM »
I would have politely told Artistic to shut up.

In our book club, we had certain perimeters (UK author, published between 1900-1955), and everyone who joined wrote down a suggested book. Then each month, we drew one, and that was the book. No arguing. No switching. No changing your mind. During the month, everyone submits two discussion questions, which are also drawn during the meeting (no matter if the member is there or not). If you weren't at the meeting when "your" book or questions were discussed, sorry 'bout it. What's made our club so successful is the very basic rules, and the agreement up front that those are the standards. Come up with your basic rules (and it's a cheer-ocracy, not a democracy, so you don't need sixteen people to weigh in and vote first), present them at the first meeting, and go with it. You can find basic outlines for book club standards online. If someone doesn't like it? Then they can find a different activity for participation. You need to make clear with your supervisor, as well, that these are the rules. If Supervisor doesn't like it, then perhaps they should find someone else to take on this project.
The point of a book club is to read and discuss books. You won't like every one of them, but those often promote the best discussion.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 05:54:17 AM by poundcake »


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Re: Okay...YOU Do It, Then...No? Then STOP Talking...
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2013, 03:01:18 PM »
Some groups are fun until someone wants to be in charge but not do any of the work.

One of Oprah's books was Vinegar Hill.  That was the most depressing book I have ever read in my life.  My boyfriend calls books and movies like that "wrist-slitters" because suicide looks pretty good afterwards.

I can say I read the book though and have discussed with others.  I would not join a book club if all I wanted to read was Heidi or Pollyanna.