I am positive that belonging to a book club helped me get a place on the MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths in 2003. AND that was the start of a new career and a new life...
Ok, I presume that my portfolio of writing had something to do with being accepted but in the interview I was able to demonstrate a breadth of reading - Gogol and James Elroy, Annie Proulx and Emily Bronte - that was entirely due to being introduced to a range of literature I probably wouldn't have encountered on my own.
More than that, in the pub I had to put into words why I loved/hated/was indifferent to each month's choice and that was good preparation for being in a classroom.
And there are only two ways to learn how to write:
Next weekend there is a festival in Ennis, County Clare entirely devoted to Irish Book Clubs - more power to them!