The Book Club Blues

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When I first had the idea of starting a business book club at work, I thought it’d be a bit like Kill Bill. You know, the bit where O-Ren Ishii says ‘You didn’t really think it’d be that easy, did you?’ And the bride says ‘You know, for a second there yeah, I kinda did’. Now obviously if you’ve never seen the movie, it’s all a bit out of context. But let me expand on that.

I read a lot of books, and some of the more enjoyable recent reads have been because I discussed them with my mates at the book club I’ve been in for about five years. None of my mates really understand how ‘Goodreads’ works, so it’s been a valuable aid to me for a while a) in picking books when it’s my turn and b) writing up short reviews of what I read. And so, apart from the unbearable tension that comes when convinced the others are going to rip your latest pick to shreds (and believe me, they do, like sharks smelling blood), it’s a pretty easy and enjoyable experience. So why the need to expand the horizon?

It’s pretty simple really. While most of the books I read tend to be novels (classy ones, obviously) or the occasional travelogue, I’ve harboured this inner feeling that I really should also be exploring some books that explain to me the context of what I do at work. Or just possibly how to do it even better or, indeed, change my life. Since I have found that I get a kick out of talking about the (normal) books I read, my view is that I should get added value from discussing business books, most logically with colleagues at work. And – whisper it – if I commit to reading say four business/self-help/personal development books a year, I’m more likely to do it if I have publicly announced my intent. So far, so good. Except…

It’s been a bit of a struggle to get other people to commit to read the few books which we -the tiny ad hoc committee for the promulgation of business books – have selected so far. I’m a bit perplexed by this. I do know that I work with people who read books. Why, they even tell me over the odd coffee we have about the latest great book they’ve read. But put a structure on it, and you may as well hang out a sign that says ‘Beware, this could get ugly’ and introduce a magnetic anti-force field to the equation. We even came up with a witty acronym (we’re that kind of entity) so it’s called the BBC – which obviously stands for Business Book Club.

I have a feeling that the time we meet at may be a factor – so we’ve tried early, lunchtime, and late, and none seemed to ‘hit the spot’. We talked about providing food to nibble on (an update on the loaves and fishes idea) and that may yet be the last throw of the dice. And we’ve tried to harness social media, in-house communications and word of mouth (positive, obviously) to boost the meagre crowds, albeit to little avail.

But amid the gloom, I have weighed up the positives, which broadly could be summarised as follows. I have (personally) read three books this year that I would not have otherwise done. And since you ask, they were Mark Schaefer’s ‘Return on Influence’, ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink, and ‘Are you fully charged’ by Tom Rath. The first was good – it dealt with influence in Social media – and the second was great, explaining why we do what we do, even if we don’t know why ourselves. The last one was admittedly a bit of a turkey, but as Meat Loaf would have put it, ‘two out of three aint bad’. Another plus was that we’ve had a few very animated meetings to talk about the books (and also the need to read a user’s manual on how to attract people to a book club). But speaking for myself, I have enjoyed meeting a few new people and having a chat in a less formalised structure than usual. Which is the whole point.

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At the last meeting we agreed the next step would be to have a brainstorming session on ‘where to, now’ – so I’m hoping that will find some answers to the questions of the hour. Maybe the killer book that blends business concepts and mass appeal is out there, which will help us turn the corner. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and all that. But whatever happens, I’m determined it won’t be ‘Who moved my cheese’….

The quest continues.

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