Reading can be a very intimate thing. I tend to read in public places – a coffee shop or the breakroom. However, when I am reading my surroundings are a blurred background. I am focused on building and exploring a new world, which is constantly evolving as I continue the story. I use what I know from my own life and experiences to color characters, places, and interactions. But no man is an island. Book clubs are a wonderful and different way to experience stories. They help get you out of your head and hear how other people processed the same exact story. I’ve enjoyed a few books a little bit more because new information was pointed out to me by another reader. I joined two this year and they are radically different, but integral to my reading process.
In January I joined a ladies book club. They had been meeting for almost a year and I was nervous that I wouldn’t fit in. I knew one girl at the first meeting and it wasn’t at her house. I showed up to the host’s house after work and knocked on the door, BUT THERE WAS NO ANSWER. I tried again and wondered if I had the right address. I did. Social anxiety flooded my synapses. I desperately messaged my friend, “HELP! ARE YOU INSIDE? HOW DO I GET IN?” She was running late, so I waited. When she arrived, I discovered I needed to go in through the back. And that was the only time, I felt uncomfortable at book club. It’s a great group and we pick a diverse selection to keep things interesting, although I’ve noticed an unconscious bias towards female writers. So far we have read: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, How Should a Person be by Sheila Heti, Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout, and Zeroville by Steve Erickson. We are about to discuss Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt later this month. I enjoyed this gothic, eerie tale, but am interested to see what others thought.
The other book club I joined was through improv. I was asked to join in August and am very excited about it. Every month the DCH Book Club reads a book and puts on a show based on the themes. So the audience doesn’t necessarily need to have read the book to enjoy the show. I started the month we read The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. Everyone in DCH Book Club is a seasoned performer. I wanted so badly to bolt from the green room before we went out on stage. We did a show based on rich people’s problems and sibling rivalries. This past show we performed a show based on the Alchemist‘s themes of fate, prophecies, and personal legends. It was a great show and I felt myself growing as an improviser. I’ve found myself reading books a bit different with this book club, I’m paying more attention to the broader theme, mood, and mass appeal than usual.
Book clubs help me hear how other people perceive a story, which helps me hone my reader’s advisory skills as a librarian. As much as reading is seen as an isolationist’s pastime, reading informs how we perceive and interact with the world.