The Sunday book club I was attending lost its momentum and the three facilitators decided it was time to close its doors. During the three years of its existence, the group members had read 19 books, about a book every two months, mostly non-fiction except for Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder and Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu.
In retrospect, I can't say I was necessarily happy reading the books that got the most votes and were consequently selected. Out of the nineteen books we read, only four or five turned out to be the books I really wanted to read (e.g. The Mind's I http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mind%27s_I ) with a group and there were a few books that I thought were a waste of my precious time by the time we were half-way through. At the pace we were reading (say 40-50 pages per week,) the actual reading of assigned sections could be done within an hour to an hour and a half, two hours at most for more abstract texts, but there was also the travel time (in my case, 15 minutes 0r 30 minutes round trip) to the meeting place and also 2 hours of face-to-face discussion time. And I also spent (voluntarily, to satisfy my own curiosity) at least an hour (or more, up to two hours or so) looking for relevant supplemental readings (e.g. reviews of the book or articles on the author or the historical contexts and relevant facts) on-line.
I think I could have spent the five hours easily reading or doing something else. I may have learned to play the ukulele decently (inspired by the greatness of http://www.ukuleleorchestra.com/main/home.aspx ) had I practiced five hours a week for three years but there was no ukulele group meeting in my neighborhood and it seemed like a good opportunity to be around people from the community I would have never met otherwise. I felt like I had something to learn about my fellow citizens' taste in philosophical books, although eight people hardly constitute a representative sample size (http://www.surveygizmo.com/survey-blog/representative-sample/ ).
Now that this book group has run its course, I'm not even sure that I really know what the intelligent layman in the U.S. considers to be an interesting read since the people who are attracted to philosophical topics seem to be perennial yet those who actively read philosopy are rare and many of those who claim to be philosophically inclined are really more interested in user-friendly popularized philosophy like The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton rather than Consolation of Philosophy penned by Boethius and gravitate towards the latest books that attempt to explain human consciousness, human violence, robustness of religion and other facets of universal human experience, based on the lastest findings on evolutionary genetics.
And the books we read (and even those that were nominated and didn't win the majority votes) don't seem to show up on other people's lists, such as these:
Anyway, my book discussion group experience should allow me to better evaluate the claims of various articles and web sites that focus on book clubs.
Some college and university communities have nice book clubs for alumni to be envied by those who are unaffiliated with these institutions; oh, if only I had attended these schools even for a semester and could start a local chapter and participate long-distance via Internet!
For interested readers, there are many on-line book clubs and web sites to facilitate the start-up process such as this one.