Lessons in attending the perfect book club

I recently attended a book club meeting of five women. We were reviewing Dan Brown’s “Inferno” (Doubleday, 2013). Without spoiling the plot, I will tell you only that the crux is population control.

I approached the subject matter with interest but no particular personal agenda – or so I thought. I was very surprised at how quickly the topic became very personal among our members – and I confess, too, how when confronted with other people’s adamant opinions, I quickly spiraled into defending an opinion I didn’t even know I had until I was challenged. (“Who is this person?” I said to myself about myself!)

It can be difficult to find the perfect book club. If the group is on the small side, controversy can often become intense and confrontational (if not well managed by the discussion leader).

In larger groups, we may not feel invested enough in what others express simply because we don’t know them very well, and therefore don’t care deeply about their opinions.

Clubs of all sorts can be a great source of self-awareness if we are brave enough to participate. Of course, there is no perfect club. We come together to learn, share and grow in ways that we cannot do on our own.

There can be great pleasure in the give-and-take of thoughts and opinions. It’s an old saying that God in his wisdom gave us two ears and only one mouth for a good reason: We should listen more than we speak and respect the layers of human experience that make us unique as individuals and interesting as a group.

“Perfect,” then, takes on a new meaning. A perfect book club is a place to share a story written by someone else and, in that process, learn more about our own stories – that personal internal dialogue that can give us clues as to why we are the way we are. Sometimes, if we listen closely, we may hear something we don’t like, or no longer agree with. Then we get to experience the rush of power that is truly ours and ours alone: the power to change our minds for the better.

So, the next time you read a book, remember to “read” yourself as you think about the book and talk about it with your club or friends. Silently question your own thoughts and opinions – and if you don’t agree with them anymore, then do a quick rewrite on yourself. We are, after all, the authors of our own lives.

I’m just saying ... after you figure out what you think and feel, don’t read too much into what others think. They are just showing you their stories, too. No book review required.

Sharon Lennox-Infante is a Certified Life Coach who lives and works in Los Altos. For more

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