Dickens Pickwick Papers (the only book of his other than A Christmas Carol that I’ve finished) might just be the first fictional club–and is certainly one of the best known.
As we all self-isolate, or forced-isolate, we can take up a book and read about a socializing! Club socializing at that. No, not Club Med, not the PTA and not night clubs or stuffy Edwardian London men’s clubs–social clubs. Euchre Club or Church Small Groups or The Elks Lodge or the UAW Bowling League–clubs for good, clean fun, friendship, and emotional support. My parents went to Newcomers Club for a while when we moved–they met other parents with kids the age of theirs, played bridge, and had fun. My Uncle and Aunt did too–in fact their Newcomer’s Gourmet Club went on to become an institution in the town for about 30 years! Clubs were for intellectual stimulation or shared interests. Clubs used to be a big deal before we lost our ability to see beyond our phone screen.
Today I belong to a few online book clubs on Goodreads.com. Like many who belong to in-person book clubs, I rarely read the book! I use them for reading ideas, but if you care already experiencing cabin fever consider them! They are under “Community” in the online version of Goodreads and under Groups in the app.
The Club Books
The Bridge Club
A bridge club is not an institution you say? Have you ever been in one? They can stick together for decades. I imagine if you polled the ladies who went to college in the 1950s, especially but not exclusively those who claimed “bridge” as their major and an “Mrs. Degree” their goal, some would still be meeting with the surviving members of their first bridge club from the dorm at college or the first marriage home neighborhood. I understand it can be the same with Mahjong Clubs too. Here’s my Bridge Club post that includes the review of the book.
Broderers and Bell Ringers Clubs
If you hear “Needlework or Embroidery Guild,” you can picture what they do. But Broderers? Broderers are embroiderers. In this book they take on making the beautiful embroideries in Winchester Cathedral. This part of the story is based on real-life events. Bell Ringing is a very English thing–Bell Ringers Societies and Clubs had outings and formal dances back in the era of this story. This book explains how bell ringing works in a cathedral with multiple bells. A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier.
The Walking Club
Claire Cook’s The Wildwater Walking Club is a favorite chick lit or women’s fiction title if you prefer. The sequel did not live up to the first, but who cares! Read the first as a one-off and enjoy it. Everyone enjoys fitness more with a partner or a class. These gals are worth knowing.
The Survivors Club With Mahjong
For generations, immigrants have formed clubs to support each other emotionally and even financially with burial funds, scholarship funds, and emergency loan funds raised by membership dues. Churches are often the meeting place as was the case in the Joy Luck Club. The women in this group survived the terror in China before coming to America. Over Mahjong, they socialize and support each other, swap memories, and invest money. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.
The Ladies Club
Clubs of all kinds were far more popular in the days of no television or internet or smartphones. People went out more to socialize. The Greatest Generation and their parents were great “joiners.” Ladies clubs or community sororities, bowling leagues, country clubs, Masonic, and other Lodges–they all flourished back then. The Persian Pickle Club provided an escape for fun and gossip to farm and town wives in Dust Bowl-era Oklahoma.
The Book Club
I like this series because it was written by a guy who actually understand what librarians do! The Cherry Cola Book Club is led by a fun, feisty, young librarian. She and the club have a lot of fun with their meetings. I must get back to this series this year! Other books with book clubs include Reading Lolita In Tehran, which I read when it came out, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I adored and reviewed on my old blog,
The Name Club
The Lois Club was a delightful subplot of this somewhat odd little book–I thought, in fact, that it would have been a better story! All women named Lois, most now much older, reached out to the younger Lois, supporting her business goals. Sourdough: A Novel by Robin Sloan.
The Knitting Club
The Writers Club
This writing group, who call themselves The Wednesday Sisters, is the dream writing group for all women writers! The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
My All-Time Favorite “Club Book”
Back in the day before women went to college in great numbers, many ladies had literary clubs or symposiums where they presented papers or debated or lectured on a topic. Jane Addams’ famous Hull House even provided such clubs for immigrants back then. This book is one of my favorites–it goes from the Civil War to the 1930s and follows the same women’s club, principally two women’s lives are the focus, but subplots bring in all the club members at one time or another. This is a HUGE book by today’s standards–800 or so pages–like Gone With the Wind in size and scope. It’s author was over 80 when it was re-published by a commercial publisher (a University or Historical Society had published it in a limited run). It is wonderful and well worth the wrist braces you’ll need to heft it! If you have a Kindle, I recommend getting it in that format. And the Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer.
Do you have other books to add to this list? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.