Why Book Clubs are Awesome: Reflections Post-meeting on Tinkers by Paul Harding

bookclubLet me begin by mentioning that GPL hosts 11 book clubs each and every month – we have an ESL book club, a men’s book club, a cook book club, a 20-something book club and not to mention several regular fiction/non-fiction book clubs. Last week the Monday Morning group (which I’m proud to facilitate) met to discuss the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Tinkers by Paul Harding. After speeding through the book (so many books, so little time!), I approached the meeting thinking two things: ‘Huh? I don’t get it’, and, ‘what are we going to talk about for an hour?’ I came out of the meeting thinking: ‘I need to re-read this book’. And I wasn’t the only one. That is the beauty of book club (and unlike Fight Club, we are allowed to talk about it). You get so much more from reading after sharing the experience with others.


Tinkers is the story of George Washington Crosby, who on his deathbed, surrounded by his family, has thoughts drifting between the present and back to his childhood and the father who abandoned him when he was twelve. Beautiful descriptions, seemingly random vignettes, interchangeable narration between George and his father Howard, all made for one interesting (if not confusing at times) read. Out of 17 of us, only 3 people liked/understood the book, but regardless there was never a lack of things to discuss (surprising, considering it’s just shy of 200 pages and lacks a real plot).

What I loved most about the meeting was that everyone had something different to say – each person interpreted the book in their own way (regardless of whether or not they enjoyed it because that isn’t the only point of reading). I also appreciated the point of view of one book club member who loved the book (but was worried about saying it in a room full of people who had just declared their discontent for it!). She described it as being like a series of abstract paintings – you can’t analyze the work, you just have to stand back and reflect on it. Another member said that she started to enjoy the book once she slowed down and tried to digest the story. After our discussion, I realized that many of us didn’t enjoy Tinkers because it didn’t fit the mold – for the most part, we like stories to have a beginning, a middle and an end, but this one lacked that linear concept.

If you’re part of, or have ever participated in, a book club, you can appreciate some of their benefits: social interaction, intellectual stimulation, building new friendships, the opportunity to read something you normally wouldn’t pick up, promote learning, plus the freedom to contemplate ideas and then share your honest opinion in a safe space.

So thank you members of the Monday Morning Book Club – you enrich my reading experience every month by sharing your thoughts and providing insights that I would never have thought of on my own.

If you have an existing book club and would like to learn how you can borrow book club sets through GPL, or if you’d like to sign up to attend one of our internal book clubs (did I mention we serve drinks and snacks?!), email bookclub@library.guelph.on.ca.

Happy reading!


About gpltara

Hi blog readers! I am an information services librarian at the Guelph Public Library (which essentially means I order materials for the library, help customers, look after the book club services and plan adult programs!). Personally, I love practicing yoga, baking cupcakes late at night, reading (surprise, surprise!), and escaping to the mountains whenever possible. I believe GPL plays such an important role in the Guelph community not only helping to connect people to information and great books, but also to each other through programs and other services.
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