The Power of Book Groups

sitting on a stack of booksBook groups are everywhere. You can hardly throw a Kindle these days without hitting one.

And some of those book groups are amazing.

My spouse, Mary Ann’s group has been meeting for almost twenty years, and they have a notebook to prove it.

The notebook would be a bookseller’s dream. It’s plum full of juicy summaries of hundreds of books read – the good, the bad, and the ugly. These folks don’t mince words. They are experienced, sophisticated readers, and tough critics. They have no shame, and have read enough to earn the right to be picky. They know good literature when they see it.

It goes without saying that I have great respect for book groups. Their opinions and ratings of my memoir, Split: A Child, A Priest, and the Catholic Church, have been invaluable to me. I have discussed Split with readers in bookstores, homes, and once, in a pub. I should do more of those pub discussions!

Books Open Minds, Book Groups Open Voices

My latest book discussion was in my friend, Bobbie’s home. She’d gathered an informal group of brilliant, funny, curious, and well-read women. Their questions were fresh and creative, and their thinking took my understanding to higher levels.

My book concerns so many issues – the Church, child sex abuse by priests, the role of women in the Church, patriarchy, celibacy, viability of marriage, intimacy, shame, arrested sexual development, relationships to priests, and the deeply rooted shame and self blame that remains in boys abused by clerics. With the added activism of the #MeToo movement, there was even more to talk about.

After living with these topics for so many years, it’s wonderful to listen to others talk. I never cease to learn from book groups.

Thanks to the many book groups whose members have made my life better.

Want to join a book group? There are lots of ways to find them.

Here are a few:

Check with your local library. Book groups often advertise on library bulletin boards.

MeetUp lets you search for local groups.

On MyBookClub you can sort groups by focus.

Virtual, and many other kinds of groups are listed on Goodreads.

Happy reading and discussing!

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash


  1. Great topic Mary! And I love to hear your incredible book (I am a ridiculously reader and gobbled it up then wanted seconds) is opening up into much needed conversations. I attended one book group and it was as I suspected – fun gals and more chit chat and wine that talk from the book (it was FUN, which is great, but I wanted to TALK). Gotta find me a Mary Ann group! Too bad we are so far away.

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