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9 things to never say in a book club

By Leigh Newman, Oprah.com
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Wed March 28, 2012
Making judgments about a relationship in a book can too easily translate to real life.
Making judgments about a relationship in a book can too easily translate to real life.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • If you didn't finish a book, it's perfectly acceptable to still sit in and listen
  • Confused emotions aren't the best when it comes to a literary mind meld
  • Criticizing someone for picking a certain book might lead them to quitting

(Oprah.com) -- 1. "So, who liked the book and who didn't?"

Beginning the night this way divides the group. Instead, have somebody open up with a question about the title or the point of view of the writer. Soon enough, who liked and didn't like the book will become obvious.

2. "Dealing with the kids/my boss has been crazy -- I couldn't get past the first chapter."

Most of us come to book club to escape stress and reality. If somebody didn't have time to finish, that's okay. This isn't high school.

It's perfectly acceptable to sit and nibble and listen. Many a beloved member has come, occasionally, just for the cheese and friendship.

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3. "This book just makes me so angry! I can't explain why, it just made me so angry."

Emotions are hard. Many of us struggle with what (exactly) we're feeling, which is fine when we're puzzling through a personal decision, but not so fine when it comes to a literary mind meld.

The whole discussion will swerve onto what the inexplicably confused person might be feeling, with everybody in the group taking guesses, instead of talking about the book.

If someone has a strong reaction, they might want to see if others felt the same way ("Did anyone else find this a difficult read? You did, too? Why so? I'm kind of confused about my own response.") That way, everybody gets a chance to weigh in.

4. "Oh, I would never put up with a man who did [insert gambling, cheating, etc.] and I think it would take a pretty weak woman to stay with him like the main character did."

Ouch. Making judgments about a relationship in a book can too easily translate to real life.

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5. "This book is the best book in the world!"

Every book club organizer wants to hear this. It's just that as soon as someone says it, everyone starts passionately describing the other best book in the world...which is never the same book for everyone.

6. "I don't think someone like you could fully appreciate the hero's situation."

This comment is pretty much a put-down in semi-polite language (even if it's not meant that way). It might not seem that, say, a rich, successful, Southern chef would understand the plight of a fictional starving girl from Africa.

But maybe she too grew up without enough to eat, or maybe she just doesn't let herself eat, or maybe she just has a lot of empathy -- one of mankind greatest, least examined traits.

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7. "Who picked this book, anyway?!"

This is almost always delivered after a long rant during which most of the group explained that they disliked the story, characters, themes and writing style. Not to mention the cover. Oh, and also, the font.

Naturally, the person who did pick the book will feel humiliated, defensive and nervous about making another choice in the future -- all feelings that might lead to her quitting or just sitting very quietly for a long time.

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8. "This one's just over my head."

Odds are, the person who says this is pretending to be less insightful that she really is, to avoid offending people. Or she's afraid to stand up for what she thinks -- which, by the way, is what we really want to hear.

9. "What I really want to talk about is...opening another bottle of wine."

Actually -- wait -- we're absolutely in favor of this comment. Utter it as many times as needed.

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