Male book group encourages tolerance

A Mount Albert man believes his all-male book group not only promotes a love of reading but encourages tolerance.

Michael Loo, who meets up monthly with four other male readers, says belonging to a book group broadens their knowledge and helps counter the tendency of digital-device use to 'shrink' their horizons.

"It's said about phones or devices that we tend to gravitate towards what we want to read; we're not exposed to different ideas," says the fulltime dad.

"That's the value of reading and belonging to an organised book group: we're exposed to different points of view and perspectives and broaden our outlook on things. It makes us more tolerant, I hope!" he says.

Michael, who formerly worked in the insurance sector, joined the book group more than a decade ago. The group was originally set up by six men. Michael now coordinates the current members, who are aged in their 50s and 60s.

Refreshments aren't a big deal at their book club meetings but some of the men have been known to bake biscuits for the occasion. Meeting venues alternate between three households – whoever happens to volunteer their home that month.

Discussion about the book itself can be rather short, especially if work commitments or other constraints mean some of the men haven't finished reading it within the monthly timeframe. Michael finds that finishing a book is always rewarding for him, even if he has to persevere through someone else's book choice that doesn't immediately appeal.

"We tend not to dwell too much on the literary merits or the structure of the book, but discuss more of the historical or social or political or philosophical background behind the story if it's a fiction book, or the facts behind the book if it's non-fiction," he says.

During the past decade, the group has "dipped' in and out of the Book Discussion Scheme.

"The scheme is a readymade way of organising a book group: we don't have to go out and look for a book, we have a catalogue of titles to choose from and there's suggested format for running meetings. It's wonderful!" says Michael.

Michael Loo is part of an all-male book group in Mt Albert that he believes helps foster tolerance. (Photo credit: Michael Loo).

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