Tough Guy Book Club members of the Castlemaine chapter at a monthly meeting. Picture: SUPPLIED
There are only a couple of rules you need to follow to join the club.
First, don’t talk about work, what you do is not important and the members don’t want to know.
Second, bring a positive attitude to each meeting.
That’s right, finishing the club’s monthly book is not vital and members are always encouraged to come to each meeting regardless of if they have completed it.
The Tough Guy Book Club was initially started as a way for a group of mates to check in with each other every month, which led to its inception at a pub in Melbourne.
They started using a book as an excuse to get to the pub so they could talk properly, eventually a few guys at the bar noticed them and were more than eager to join in on the discussion.
But from there it grew, from suburb to suburb, state to state there are now almost 30 chapters across the country and the first international chapter was recently launched in the United States.
“The tough guy thing is more of a theme than anything,” Shay said.
“Mostly we read books by tough guys, rather than as tough guys. The books we choose are guided by a loose central theme of masculinity.
“We’ve read two books by Ernest Hemingway, and he’s a perfect example of the masculine. His books are strong and pioneering, they’re about conflict and bullfighting, loving, drinking, war and the ocean.”
Some of the books the club have read include The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway and The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson.
Essentially the club acts as a meeting place for men to come together to discuss literature and the everyday issues they face.
Alex Playsted or ‘Wash’ as he is known by fellow members, was hooked from his first meeting.
“I really liked what I saw when I rolled up,” Alex said.
Alex’s love for books and having a good chat were a good draw-card to join, but he felt he wanted to be even more involved with the club and is now a director that helps form new chapters.
“I was in a pretty challenging time of my life,” he said. “Tough relationship, isolated from people and was in the role of a carer.
“Very quickly I found I had a very strong community around me of like minded guys that were all very different individuals, but unified with compassion and our interest in the fellow man.”
When Alex Playsted moved to Castlemaine, the first thing he did was start a new chapter, not because he wanted to but because he needed to.
“I was amazed by how much you get to know people by listening to them talk about a book, you could just tell how they were opening up about their own life experiences.”
The name Tough Guy Book Club led him to believe it would be a bunch of bearded guys sitting around chatting about books, but it turned out to be a whole lot more.
It dawned on him how book clubs can attract ‘genuine, open and honest people’.
“Guys having a new friend catch up would be a bit awkward, but because we have the book as the basis of the conversation it just allows for a greater flow of conversation.”
Jamie Rooney had just moved to Bendigo from Glasgow, Scotland.
“Being a standard boy from the west coast of Scotland, we do not discuss emotion, it’s not something that is done is Glasgow,” Jamie laughed.
“During the couple meetings that I’ve been to, I’ve been able to open up a bit more which is something I generally would never have done.”
Like other members from Castlemaine and Bendigo, Jamie was feeling the pressure of social isolation and struggled to find new friends.
“When I first moved here, it was quite difficult getting to know anyone. Everything here seems to be based around sport, so it has been a great way to meet other people.”
Bendigo member Troy Beamish also had a similar experience, having just recently moved from Melbourne and had a very limited social network.
“I thought it would be more of an analysis of the characters, whereas it branched out into a deeper look into humanity and how the books applied to the world,” he said.
“It was the most appealing part that will make me come back.”
Tough Guy Book Club meetings are held on the first Wednesday of every month and to find your local chapter visit http://toughguybookclub.com/.
No chapter in your area? Why not be a tough guy and start your own.