First rule of book club: Don't read Middlemarch! Stuffy 19th century literature a turn-off for readers
Blog details guidelines for successful book club
Advises ditching outspoken friends and minimising alcohol intake
09:08 GMT, 16 May 2012
They are the weekday social event of choice for middle-class Brits in pursuit of self-improvement and the chance to impress friends with their knowledge of the classics.
But as with any clubs, there are rules – tacit or otherwise – that must be observed if the merry band of readers are not to meet with discord before they've got past the prologue.
Now a definitive list of book club rules has been drawn up by the influential Middle Class Handbook website to help members keep discussions on track and prevent the collapse of their club.
Book club rules: Not too much alcohol, nothing above 450 pages – and no 19th century literature
Death knell for book clubs Middlemarch by George Eliot is too heavy, the rules say
Top of the list of pointers is to avoid Middlemarch at all costs.
'It is the death knell for a book club,' the popular blog says.
'Someone will confess “I’ve never read Dickens” and it's only a
short hop from there until “we should try the classics” rears its fearful head.'
'Attempt anything pre-1900 and over 450 pages and your book club will shrivel up and die.'
Elsewhere, the guidelines warn against meandering group members, saying they should be told to stick to the material in hand.
Too many allow conversation to slide away from narrative structure and character development into gossip and what’s on TV, they said.
Other guidelines detailed by the Handbook include the judicious ditching of what it calls the 'over opinionated friend', advice to stay away from ambitious themes, and a pointed reminding hosts and guests to keep alcohol intake to a minimum.
On outspoken members, the blog says: 'The point of a book club is to talk about the book.
'None of this is possible if one member insists on shrieking 'It’s an allegory!!! It’s a bloody allegory, why are we still talking about this’
Out: Television adaptations, like this one of Middlemarch starring Rachel Power & Jonathan Firth, will put people off the book they are supposed to be reading
'Because no one will want to ask the over zealous member to leave, the book club will either have to start meeting in secret (awkward) or just give up altogether (sad, but preferable to hideous discussion with book club bore).
On book club themes, it says: 'If your book club is going strong, you may be tempted to stretch it a little further. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” someone will say, “to make some food that goes with the book”
'We ate pie with the Life of Pi, hot dogs with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, but it was a few good months before anyone felt brave enough to follow the authentic Ukrainian national dishes (and music) that accompanies A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine.
'Keep any food simple. Crisps and olives will do.'
It also warns of the perils of too much alcohol, which it says will wash away any post book club glow.
'It's nice to be out on a weekday and one more glass won't hurt, but it's easy to get carried away. Soon the book discussion is dispatched within ten minutes and the rest of the evening is spent dissecting husbands and exes and polishing off another bottle or two.
'Terrible mid week hangovers utterly wipe out the warm glow one expects from a book club, and people will stop coming,' it says.
Finally it says films and television adaptations are a big no-no.
'Can’t we just watch the film What about the BBC adaptation on DVD
The book club that drifts away from books towards discussions of Sean Bean is destined for failure.'