MINNEAPOLIS — The book club's first reading choice "triggered something that all of us had to get off our chests," said a founding member.

"We're all going through a cycle of life where there's a lot of vulnerability," said another. "This is a way for me to come to a group and be vulnerable."

Added the first member: "I think the whole book club is a pretext for us talking about our lives."

Typical touchy-feely book-club talk, except for one tiny detail. The members are named Jon and Naveen, and their club is an entirely male province, a fraternal order with no girls allowed, not even tangentially.

"One of our rules is that we don't read books that our wives suggest," said Eric Erickson, another denizen of the five-man coterie that meets every five to six weeks to talk mostly about books but also their lives.

Erickson's club, founded by Denny Haley and including Brian Longley, Naveen Sharma and Jon Klaverkamp, is a rarity. One reason: 58 percent of American readers are women, according to a 2008 study by R.R. Bowker, a leading provider of global book information.

"Men's book clubs are far, far the minority, said Hans Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber's Books in St. Paul. At a recent Micawber's event for book-club coordinators, "it was like me and 40 women," Weyandt said.

Still, groups such as the one started by Haley, and another co-founded by Minneapolis' John Bellaimey, share a lot with women's or mixed-gender clubs: a love for reading and a penchant for using the books as jumping-off points to talk about their lives.

In fact, the two men's book groups might be more different from each other than they are from similar women's clubs. Haley & Co. talk very intimately about their individual lives, but never about work or even their families. "I don't know what kind of car anyone drives, or anyone's vacation places," Haley said.

The Bellaimey bunch shares pretty much everything. "We talk about politics, our families and movies. In August we don't read a book; we go to a movie," said Bellaimey. "We go to each other's weddings, to each other's kids' bar mitzvahs, and the funerals of loved ones. We get together once a year with spouses and sometimes kids.

"During the early years when the 'Harry Potter' books came out, we had kids of Potter age, and we would have a potluck for us and our families. We let the kids discuss the books, and the kids remember that very fondly."

Their first meetings also could not have been more different. Haley's group forged an immediate bond despite not knowing one another well. In discussing their first book, Per Peterson's "Out Stealing Horses," "we learned right away that some of us had father issues and some of us had son issues," said Sharma. "And that really attracted me to this."

That theme has recurred, even persisted. "I didn't know that so many great authors wrote about my father and me," Klaverkamp said.

Bellaimey's crew bonded in an entirely different way, over how much they disliked their first book, Richard Ford's "The Sportswriter," which Bellaimey called "pointless alienation with no redemption."

"It actually has become an ongoing joke, much to the dismay of the person who suggested it," he said. "We'll be talking about a book that some people don't like, and we'll say, 'Is that book as bad as "The Sportswriter"? Is the plot as predictable and dispiriting and hopeless as "The Sportswriter"?' And the answer is always no."

The story lines and characters actually do consume the majority of the guys' time when they gather, but just barely.

"We do talk about plot and whether the narrative works," Bellaimey said, "but it usually comes back to our own experience, depending on what the book is about: death or alienation or love."

Pretty heavy stuff, but hey, it's a lot cheaper than professional therapy.

"There are times we go straight from the book to a psychiatrist's couch," said Sharma.

Added Haley: "Some men might talk about this kind of stuff while back-yard grilling or working on a car. I'm more comfortable doing that over a book."