25 February 2023

I wanted to start a gang,
but it turned into a book club...

"I wanted to start a gang, but it turned into a book club..."

I don't know the kindred spirit who first said the above quote, and I've probably butchered it somewhat, but...Guilty as charged!  Which is saying a lot, because usually I write about the mob...


I love my current book club.  We don't do the 'buy one book and everybody read it' thing.  Instead, we have a list of categories (30 in all) and are expected to read one book that satisfies each criteria in a calendar year.  We can each read a different book that fits the category.  We also give each other two free outs, meaning you can skip two categories if you absolutely hate them.  Bless those outs.

Love this club, because I am pushed into reading things I wouldn't normally pick up.  Other genres, past classics, even cookbooks.  Plus they come with recommendations from people I trust.  We all read more than 30 books a year (I'm close to 100.)  So there's still lots of time to read new releases from favourite authors beyond those 30 on the book club list.

That said, I'm a crime writer and crime reader.  Whodunits are my trade, and I shy away from anything that sniffs of Chicklit.  So you can imagine my surprise when I am pressured to read a book that reaches me in a way I didn't expect.   "What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty, is a perfect example, and I'm exceedingly grateful.  That book made me think about my own past and future, at a time when I had just lost my first husband to cancer (decades earlier than it should have been.)

And let me also say, that I am thrilled that people are reading.  If they want to read things I don't find pleasure reading, that's terrific!  Please, please keep reading, young people.  It doesn't matter what books you cherish, as far as I'm concerned. 

Still, there's the guilt. Yes, I feel guilt.  I should like reading everything.  I should at least recognize that reading diverse books is 'good for me,'  and thus be an enthusiastic participant.

Confessions, confessions.  What things have I learned about myself, through that seemingly innocent little social activity?  Three things come to mind.  Let me take a moral inventory, and feel free to cast aspersions on my virtue.  It wouldn't be the first time (wink).

1.   Non-fiction sucks.

University type here.  Prof at college for 30 years.  Read a lot of non-fiction in my time, in order to be able to teach the stuff.  Guilty secret?  For me, reading non-fiction is work.  I don't want to work in my off-time.

I know.  I can hear the collective gasps from here.  Non-fiction is good for you! It makes you smarter! 

I doubt very much if anything at this stage could make me smarter (much as that might be desirable for all concerned...)  It might make me more knowledgeable, that I accept.  Do I care?  Not much.  My brain is precariously close to full now, and putting more into it threatens to dump other things already lodged there out my ears.  (Medical fact.  I read it online.)

2.  And on that note, I rarely enjoy reading memoirs and biographies.  

Our book club requires us to read one of the above, once a year.  It's not fun for me.  I really don't like spending my time reading about other people's lives, especially the white-washed versions.  Ditto, the poor me versions.

Why?  I read to escape reality. Which brings me to the final point (some of you will gasp.)

3.  I don't care much for fiction written from (many) multiple points of view.

There are some extremely popular books out now that are written from several points of view (I'm thinking The Thursday Murder Club and like.)  I like humour and crime together, so I gave it a try.  And I can see why people would like it. I thought some parts of it were great fun.  Thing is, I kept putting it down.  I could read a chapter and put it down.  Pick it up a few days later and read another two scenes.  Then put down the book and forget about it.

What this tells me:  For me, it wasn't a compelling read.  I didn't care enough about the protagonist to keep reading to find out what would happen.  Wait a minute - to tell the truth, I couldn't even tell who the protagonist was!

And that's the key.  The protagonist.  God Bless Book Club.  I've learned a lot about myself and what I treasure reading.  To wit:

I want to become the protagonist when I read a book.  

(Please let me know in the comments below if you relate to this.)

I want to slip into the skin of the main character and have a rollicking adventure. I want things to happen. I want there to be a satisfactory conclusion to the adventure, so I close the book with a smile on my face.

On the memoir front: For the record and just to be fair, I have no desire to write a memoir myself.  Have the general public read all about my misspent youth and totally embarrassing past mistakes?  Gulp.  Would rather go public on my bra size  (weight is off the table.) In fact, I am puzzled that others do want to share their dirty linen in public. 

 Mine is stuffed into drawers that hopefully my kids will never open.

Melodie Campbell writes fiction (swear to God it's fiction!) from the shores of Lake Ontario.  Book 17 is now available for preorder.  On AMAZON


  1. Does I relate? Do I RELATE? You checked all my boxes and articulated far better than I the rational why I lose interest in bios and other non-fiction. Say, why don't we get married? Sofa, fireplace, stack of books…

    My mother and grandmother were inveterate club persons. Funny, that's not something we know about today, but it was a thing in the past couple of centuries.

    They helped found a regional book club, Mu Beta (μβ). I have no idea what the letters stood for, but my mother would abandon her children (to read their own books) and disappear into her book club.

    Yes, I understand.

    1. Leigh, I will put you down for my third husband. Deal? grin. I'm so glad you understand. I've been feeling like the black sheep of book club. baaaa

  2. Completely relate, which is why I don't read violently unstable, manipulative, or cruel narrators. I also don't read torture scenes. I don't want that in my head. I read to escape and for enjoyment. I don't mind how messed up the lives of minor characters are due to whatever crime has occurred that needs solving, so long as the protagonist comes out okay and finds some sort of justice.

    1. Anon, I am going to save that first line of yours somewhere, or actually the next two as well. It is exactly what I feel. I want to like the protag, and I don't want to feel I've been manipulated by the writer as some sort of author experiment. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I, too, prefer to read novels written in singular POV. Recently, I've started to read the occasional YA/NA novel recommended to me by my daughter so we can have book discussions. I really enjoyed 'If We Be Villains' by M. L. Rio.

    The dialogue is bizarre as most of the characters like to respond to each other in Shakespearean quotes that are apropos. SPOILER ALERT-- I explained to Verity that what the author has done was cleverly write a Shakespearian tragedy set in current times in a theatre setting that features almost all the bard's dark themes -- jealousy, rage, power, lust, longing, betrayal, death and love.

    As an author, I saw into the writing and was so gobsmacked that I will need to reread it. There are passages that are hauntingly beautiful... meanwhile, the characters are still very 'teen.' I wish the book would be used in high school but due to the f bombs, drugs and sex... I doubt it will be.

    1. Melodie Here. Isn't that interesting, Cyndi! I expect you're right, about the book being used in High School, at least in the States. Up here, the publishers are very into 'issues', so we're getting books about teen pregnancy, kids in gangs, etc. with more common dark issues at the focus. Language also more relevant (a nice way to put it, I think!) Thanks for commenting!

  4. Melodie, I'm with you on nonfiction sucks. I was just thinking today about how I became an English major in the Sixties so I could read novels all day long, and except that I jumped the wall and ran away with genre fiction as soon as I graduated, nothing has changed.

    1. Laff! I was a business major, Elizabeth, and I envied you lit majors!! Thanks for commenting.

  5. I loved What Alice Forgot. It shows that "chick lit" can have a lot of depth. I have trouble reading memoirs too. It's like walking in on somebody in the rest room. Too much information.

    1. Anne, that was a perfect way to put it, and I'm going to remember it! Like walking in somebody in the rest room!

  6. I do get it, Mel. CrimeFic is my first and truest love. But I’ve been known to be captivated by a well-written memoir, a true crime, a literary work. I never know what’s going to catch my interest but I always know the next read will be crimefic.

    1. Donna, I love that: "bit I always know the next read will be crimefic" - perfect! Thanks for commenting.

  7. There's nonfiction and there's nonfiction. I get into research mode and can follow topics down the rabbit hole but if I'm going to read a nonfiction book, I want some narrative involved: history, true crime, case studies. Storytelling can be true too.
    Other than that, you know we share similar tastes, Mel, I keep borrowing your books. (And buying the ones you write of course. Can't wait to pick up The Merry Widow Murders!)


    1. Thanks for that last, Alison! You certainly saw me through the widow part, and know it took a long time to get to the Merry. I think it comes out in the book. hugs

  8. Mel, I have to disagree about non-fiction - it depends on what it is. Some history books (I'm a historian, sorry) are great, like "The Death of Woman Wang" by Jonathan Spence - hint, she was murdered - "The World of the Shining Prince" by Ivan Morris (12th c. Japan - like going to Mars in many ways...); Barbara Tuchman's "The Calamitous 14th Century"; Diane Ackerman's "A Natural History of the Senses"...
    Also, there are some hilarious memoirs, like Harpo Marx's autobiography, James Thurber's "My Life and Welcome To It", and Gwen Raverat's "Period Piece".

    1. Eve, you are exactly the type of woman I admire and envy! I always find I learn something from your posts, and no wonder. Thanks for these suggestions!


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