Happy Freedom to Read Week dudes! Who knew? Not me! I was just going to write a piece about book clubs, and then I stumbled up their website. Fortitous! There are various events going on this week to celebrate freedom of expression and raise awareness about issues of censorship in Canada. Find an event in your city and appreciate your freedom to read!
SPEAKING OF FREEDOM TO READ (great segue) I recently joined a book club. I never dreamed that I’d have cool friends who were all organized enough to read a book and then meet once a month to talk about it. I guess I don’t dream big enough. And I also guess that even if you don’t dream big enough, the dreams you don’t have can come true! (Reverse The Secret.)
I was asked by a friend to join her club in November, and I was super worried that I’d be the least insightful and most boring contributor to the group. Luckily every book club is different and our club, The (C)literate Feminists, is just a really fun hang out thinly disguised as an ach-edemic endeavour. Our meetings start out with an informal discussion about parts of the book that we found interesting, problematic or confusing and these lead into personalanecdotes and general chatter. During my first introduction to the group we talked about everything from jealousy to discharge (never both at once), and I walked away happy to have bonded so quickly with a bunch of strangers. I was also happy to have the now- monthly challenge of reading our chosen book.
Book clubs are a great way to get your academic and social on. And you get to decide how much of either you’d like! Gather a bunch of buddies together and make your own club… maybe it will be strictly intellectual or maybe you’ll just joke the whole time. I don’t know you. But I do have some red hot Book Club Tipz (because I have been to two book club meetings and now I’m an expert) that I’ve gathered for you:
- Choose a theme for your group: This can really help narrow down the choices for potential books. Think about your common interests and choose a topic that is broad enough to have lots of selection and isn’t just “funny books that are also sad because I like to laugh while I’m crying.” That’s not a genre. But it is my life.
- Pick a punny name for your group and be really happy about it. What about “E’r'body In Da (Book)Club Gettin’ Text-y?” (wut?) Or “The Pro-prose Pros” (hmmm…), or “The Tina (Page)Turners?” (Uh? Then you only read Tina Turner biographies? I’m not sure. You’ll have to make it work, you picked it.)
- Decide how you’re going to organize discussion. Is it a free-for-all chat? Do you have a conch shell? Are you using Robert’s Rules of Order?
- Create questions before your meeting. If you want a formal text analysis or to stimulate discussion this is a great way to keep the group on track and chattin’.
- Select the next book in a timely manner: if you wait too long between meet-ups the momentum/interest in the group will fade.
- Wine. Wine for everyone! Or treats. Or both! Both for everyone!
If you don’t have any cool friends that are organized enough to read a book and then meet once a month to talk about it, check out bookclub.meetup.com to find a preexisiting club in your city! There are tons of different types of groups and you’ll definitely find something to suit your interests. Jane Austen’s Books, The Revue Cinema’s Book Revue (complete with a movie screening!) and the Canadian Authors Reader Group are just a few Toronto examples. The Toronto Public Library also puts on book club meetings, suggests ideas for book clubs and creates book clubs to go. It’s a great resource for new and old book clubbers alike.
If you need a suggestion to get started, and in honour of Freedom to Read Week, maybe your next/first book should be one of these Challenged Works! Book clubs are a lot of fun and I hope you get into one soon! But in the words of LeVar Burton, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”