One of my greatest pleasures as a reader is discussing books. It takes the experience of reading from one of solitude to one done in community. Some of the best conversations I’ve had have been talking about books and many (dare I say all?) of my best friends are fellow book lovers. It’s no coincidence, then, that I’ve been in a book club for 12 years that meets monthly. It’s exposed me to books I never would have chosen independently, and ideas I’d never had considered. Even when I haven’t loved the book we’ve read, I’ve inevitably appreciated it more after we’ve discussed it as a group and another person was able to article its strengths and what it meant to them.
So how do book clubs adapt at a time when social distancing rules mean gathering in groups face-to-face isn’t possible? Well, there are online reading communities like Goodreads where you can read reviews and find recommendations, but that isn’t quite the same dynamic experience as having a live conversation. One of my favourite things about my book club is that members show up with passages marked that they want to read aloud, usually because the prose is so poignant, insightful or lovingly constructed that someone wants to share it with the group. This usually elicits some “oohs” from the others and often someone else will say they, too, loved and noted the same passage.
To recreate the live experience during COVID-19, my book club has been meeting online. We use Zoom, but there are other apps that also facilitate online gatherings. At first, we were hesitant as we usually meet in each other’s homes and who would be in charge of snacks—an essential book club element? But now that we’ve tried it, I can vouch that it was a close second-best to meeting in person and actually offered at least one advantage—conversational turn taking was more disciplined.
As an author, I’ve had the privilege of being invited to three book clubs gatherings to discuss my 2019 novel Making it Home. All three were pre-COVID-19 gatherings, and each time, the group was incredibly welcoming and gracious. They had excellent questions, invaluable feedback to offer me, and yes, delicious snacks! I’ve enjoyed meeting new people, and the rich conversations that have ensued.
If you’d like to invite me to your online book club, I’d be pleased to show up to say hello, meet members and answer questions or give short reading. You might also be interested to know that Making it Home is part of #StayHome Read Atlantic which means there are no limits or wait lists on Halifax Public Libraries downloads for a week starting May 7. I hope my book might offer a bit of an escape from our troubled times and that it’s ultimate message of hopefulness and human resilience brings some comfort. And if you prefer reading printed books, Nimbus is shipping and so are several wonderful local independent bookstores including King’s Co-op Bookstore and BookMark.
No matter what or however you are reading, I hope books are continuing to enrich your life as greatly as they do mine.
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