Men's book group is surprisingly candid

The coordinator of an all-male book group in Dunedin is staggered – and delighted – by the candour with which the men talk about themselves.

"What has really struck me is the conversations start with the book and end up with the men talking about their lives, which is something men don't tend to do," says Damien Gibson.

"I've been staggered - and delighted, really," says the 53-year-old teacher trainee, who believes the group wouldn't be so candid if there were women in it.

Damien has been overseeing his five-man book group (a sixth member has only recently left) for the past two years. The group, which meets in a pub every other month, predominantly reads fiction. 

He says the group prefer to read novels because the books are "a bit of a launching pad" and lend themselves to wide ranging conversations.

"We see men's book groups as a way for guys to connect socially, particularly as they approach retirement," says Book Discussion Scheme manager Barbara Brown.

"At whatever age, being part of a book group – whether male or mixed – is a great way to connect and socialise with others in your community, to read widely and keep mentally alert," she says.

The men in Damien's group are aged in their 50s and 60s and are or have been in professional occupations. Three of them were part of a previous book group, but two other male readers joined recently.

Damien says the adage that men talk 'shoulder to shoulder' not face to face doesn't fit his experience and that members of the book group are quite open about aspects of their lives.

"When we discussed the Colm Toibin novel The Blackwater Lightship, we talked about skeletons in the family closet; when we read [Russian author] Turgenev's First Love, there's us men talking about our first loves," says Damien.

Corstorphine's Damien Gibson says he's staggered and delighted that his all-male book group talk candidly about their lives as well as each month's book. (Photo credit: Damien Gibson)

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Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
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