In a recent blog post, Should We Protect the Grown-Ups?, I expressed surprise that Shameless, a terrific, funny, thought-provoking book for adults about adult issues like marriage, sex, and midlife identity could be — just by virtue of the subject matter — too volatile for some readers to feel comfortable discussing in a book group setting. My main point, which was a little obscured by the racy nature of this particular book (sex does somehow always trump other topics struggling for a voice at the table), was that as a bookseller, I’ve noticed a growing reluctance of adult readers to engage with reading material that they might disagree with politically, morally, and/or religiously, and this has implications to me for the environment in which we’re raising our kids.
I think societies are healthiest with spirited debate instead of cautious segregation of ideas. So it was with great delight that I learned that several of the members of the book group that had decided not to read Shameless have set up a satellite book group just for discussion of that title. This seems to me a perfect compromise, both acknowledgement of and respect for the group as a whole, and an innovative solution, accommodating those members who have an interest in and willingness to take on this slightly controversial topic.
How civilized. How creative. How … democratic!
My bookselling world is just a little brighter today. Controversy is not dead! Long live shameless book discussions.