9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

Woman using phone and drinking coffee.
Woman using phone and drinking coffee.

I can't tell you how excited I was when I joined my first book club, but I can tell you much I immediately regretted it.

Don't get me wrong. I love book clubs. I just hate reading and talking to people.

To avoid these relentless chores, I keep a few tricks up my paisley cotton sleeves. After you join a book club and eventually give up, perhaps you can use these tricks, too.

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

1. Wear a scarf.

Wearing a giant, over-sized scarf will make you look deeply intelligent in almost any situation, but especially a book club. Make sure your over-sized scarf has some sort of fancy pattern on it and lots of fringe.

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

2. Make an excuse for why you couldn't get through the book.

Some of your book club friends might try to shame you for not reading the book. This is called "didn't read the book shaming," and it is wrong.

The best way to defend yourself is to come up with a strong, thoughtful excuse for not reading it. Here are a few you can use:

  • It was too formulaic.
  • It triggered something from my childhood I'd rather not discuss.
  • I don't have any proof, but I believe the author might have been a Nazi.

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

3. Read a quote aloud, slowly.

The Kindle app for your Android or iPhone actually records the most quoted passages by all readers. Simply do a quick Google search for "most quoted passages" + "the name of the book" and see what comes up. You only need one good, juicy quote to nail that book discussion to the ground.

Make sure you're the first to speak up, so that no one steals your quote. And when you read the quote, read it emphatically, taking long, thoughtful pauses. And when you're done, close your eyes, as if you're savoring every last morsel of literary goodness.

Your book club will eat this up.

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

4. Make your book look worn

Here are some quick tips to make your book seem like it was opened more than once:

  • Put in the dryer for 10 minutes.
  • Crinkle several pages.
  • Pour some coffee on it.
  • Use post-its, stickies, bookmarks, and dog-ears.

Some people might say this is a lot of work, but those people haven't tried reading 10 chapters of a Victorian novel in one night.

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

5. Pick an opinion

Head over to Goodreads and look up the book you were supposed to read. There, you'll find lots of opinions ranging from glowing to inflammatory; simply pick one and use it as your own during the book discussion.

This way you don't have to read the book or think for yourself.

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

6. Nail your literary buzzwords

Simply uttering a key literary buzzword has the potential to immediately make you seem bookish.

Give one of these a try:

  • Mood
  • Symbolism
  • Human condition
  • Post-structuralism
  • Sexual undertones
  • Sexual overtones
  • Sex
  • Duality

Once you utter the buzzword, just take a sip of tea and nod.

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

7. Sip tea and say "hmm" a lot.

Slowly, loudly sip tea throughout the discussion. Say "hmm" a lot, as if you're deeply considering everything being said.

If someone asks you a question, just take an extra large sip and point to your mouth. Smile as if to say, "Sorry, can't talk right now. My mouth is full of tea."

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

8. Always vote for books that are also movies

Fight hard for books with a movie version. And make sure it's a short movie you can easily watch while sleeping on the couch.

When someone complains that the book you want to read is also a movie -- act surprised. Say you don't even own a TV.

Here's a list of books that got turned into movies.

9 Tricks to Look Smart in a Book Club

9. Resurrect the bookclub name debate

You know there are still a few people unhappy with the name of your book club.

Bring it up. It'll derail the meeting for an hour and by the time you're done, it'll be time to go home.

What do you do to look smart in your book club? Let's chat on Twitter. For more from Sarah, check out her satirical blog, The Cooper Review.