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Book Clubs

We’ve talked about the library’s book club before in our posts – especially all of the different names book club has, depending on the month and the book (1969 – What A Year It Was!) We’ve got some good book choices coming up in the next few months, so I’m thinking we’re going to keep the name “We Actually Read the Book!” book club for a while. More on those upcoming books in a later blog post!!


I love belonging to a book club. I have been fortunate in my life to have been able to belong to 3 book clubs, at least. Possibly more, if we count friends who would often get together informally and end up talking about the latest books we had read. And some of my college classes felt a lot like book clubs, in a way, as well.


One of the best things about book clubs is that sometimes they force me to read books that are outside of my “wheelhouse” – you know, those books you would never choose to read on your own if it weren’t for a looming book club discussion (although there are times when I just refuse to read a certain book, just ask any of the “We Didn’t Read the Book” book club members!). As I’ve gotten older, I have decided to choose peace of mind rather than read a book that I know will make me crazy, angry, sad, or depressed…) (Also, as I’ve gotten older, I realize there are more and more things that make me crazy, angry, sad, or depressed…so there’s that…)


I would say that 80- 90% of the “not in my wheelhouse books” were a success (but not always – my friend Heather and I still recall with horror the exceedingly long version of Dracula (“The Historian”, by Elizabeth Kostova) we both read to the end for a book club, figuring “it must get better at some point”. Side note: it never did. And we warned the other book club members to not bother reading it, as well.)


Quite a few books I read directly because of a book club have landed on my favorite books of all-time list:


“The Red Tent”, by Anita Diamant: this book is a first-person narrative that tells the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, sister of Joseph. Yes, that family, from the Bible. Talk about outside my wheelhouse. I had never read historical fiction before, and omg, this was fascinating. I still list it as one of my top favorite reads of all time.

“Water for Elephants”, by Sara Gruen: the story is told through a series of memories by Jacob Jankowski, a 93-year-old man who lives in a nursing home. In the nursing home, Jacob's life lacks excitement and he's now a tired old man whose life is highly regimented and scheduled. Jacob's memories are ignited by the arrival of a circus to town. I remember resisting reading this book, but I certainly don’t remember why. Will read again, 10/10.

“Little Fires Everywhere”, by Celeste Ng: The author described writing about her hometown as "a little bit like writing about a relative. You see all of the great things about them, you love them dearly, and yet, you also know all of their quirks and their foibles." Doesn’t that sound like how we would feel if we were writing about our hometowns?

“The Time Traveller’s Wife”, by Audrey Niffenegger: definitely not a book everyone will love, but oh, I did. And I SOBBED at the end. Oh, I did.


Besides reading books I wouldn’t necessarily have read otherwise, the socialization aspect of book clubs is wonderful. For 2 of the 3 I’m thinking of, the book clubs gave me the opportunity to meet people I would never have connected with otherwise. Friends invite friends and friends of friends, and suddenly there is a (hopefully) vibrant and engaging group of people who might not have anything else in common but the love of reading.

A favorite book club memory I have is coordinating dinner menus that originate from some aspect of that month’s book. (The first time I had Thai food was a book club dinner derived from a book club book. {The main couple’s favorite restaurant was a Thai restaurant.} Since I had never had Thai, I’m guessing I might have brought the wine that night!). I’ve been trying to coerce, er, um – convince the library book club to adopt something similar, but there has been resistance. I’m still workin’ on it, though!


Besides the library’s book club, I also have an online, Zoom meeting book club. As so many of us have done this year, 3 of my friends and I reconnected during the pandemic, and we all happened to belong to a book club together when we lived in Albany (and now that I think of it, I met one of these friends directly because of that book club; and they met my best friend through me / book club. Book club friends for life!). We thought it would be fun to bring back a smaller version of “our” book club (we call it “Re-united Book Club”, of course). The four of us are currently residing in NY, KY and FL, chat via Zoom twice a month, and try to read the same book when we can (it’s been hard for us all to find the same books at our different libraries, so sometimes it takes longer). I can’t wait until we all can get Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder” and Sue Monk Kidd’s “Book of Longings” (one of us is #45 on the library list for that one, so…it will be a while!)


Of course, I’m writing this post based on the assumption that anyone who might read this is a book lover. That assumption is based solely on the fact that you’re reading a library blog. So you’re either a book lover or a close friend or relative of mine!!


A good book, whatever type of book it is that captivates your attention, can at least momentarily lift you out of what’s going on around us. For some, it might be music or movies or art or science or exercise – but for me, it’s books. Add in some great friends, some new friends, friends you only see at book club – doesn’t matter – but for that time, the chaotic world can hopefully fall away – at least a little bit. And I think we all need that these days.

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