The Return of the Book Club
With the shortest day of the year behind us, it is the perfect time for a midyear reset. Every year, I plan to read more than the previous year, some years it happens, others you would never know that I even made an attempt. My list of ‘books I want to read’ continues to grow faster than I can get through them, so choosing which title comes next is becoming increasingly difficult. Maybe you’re the opposite, just getting back into reading and not knowing where to start – cue, book clubs!
Book clubs are having a long-awaited resurgence, with people of all ages getting amongst the revival. It seems to be tied to the return of craft and community that has flourished out of the disruption and devastation of the last year. As someone who comes from a family full of teachers, social workers and creatives, it is surprising (even to me) that it has taken me this long to consider belonging to a book club. It seems too obvious that I would love building community around a shared passion for art and learning. Starting something new can be a little scary, so I’ve collated my top tips for joining, or starting, a book club.
Find your people
There is no point joining a group who loves romantic novels when you’re into science fiction thrillers, so your priority is finding people who have similar interests to you. Maybe you have a wide-range of interests, and are looking to add new genres to your rotation – there’s plenty of clubs for that too. My group of friends have an interest in non-fiction and social justice, so we often choose books from radical publisher Verso Books, who have options for both hard copies and e-books. Your local library is also a great place to connect with like-minded people and an opportunity to get involved with your wider community. Long gone are the days of being scolded by the librarian for anything more than a whisper, most libraries are now a lively hub of activity.
Time and location
Although it feels like we have all suffered through enough video-calls to last a lifetime, online book clubs are a great way to keep in touch with friends and make it easier to slot into already busy schedules. Bookety Book Books is an online, independent bookstore who host a monthly book club, self-described as a “virtual sanctuary for the book-obsessed”. Anti-Racism Daily have also now launched a book club as part of their subscription-based online community, providing all the support you need to continue your learning in 2021.
If kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) is more your vibe, maybe you could rotate hosting, or cater to the person who has the most barriers to attending – it should always be an opportunity to reduce stress, not contribute to it. You then have to decide what timeframe is reasonable, how quickly the group be expected to get through the book, and how much time you can realistically commit. Many book clubs meet monthly, but maybe bimonthly works better for your crew with a mid-point group message.
If you have started your own book club, it is important to check-in with your members regularly to ensure it is still meeting the needs of the majority. If there is a minor change that can be made, like shifting an hour to cater to the kids’ bedtime, it could make all the difference to who can attend. It’s a good idea to keep a list of the books you might want to bring to the group in future and decide collectively how you are going to choose which one comes next. It can be difficult to find the balance between flexibility and structure that will keep your book club on track, you should expect there to be some hiccups along the way.
Whether you are joining a club, or starting your own, it can be a little daunting in the beginning. Don’t get discouraged if the conversation is a little thin, or you can’t get everyone to attend – good things take time. Remember that the purpose of gathering is a group is the chance to connect, so it’s important not to get too caught up in the details, just enjoy yourselves!
Chanelle is a vegan, amateur athlete, social advocate, environmental enthusiast and blogger at mynameischanelle.com.