WSL Community Outreach Librarian, Sara Peté, recently took part in a panel on “Building Community with Book Clubs” at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s annual tradeshow — an event that brings hundreds of book industry professionals together. Davina Morgan-Witts of BookBrowse and sweet pea Flaherty of King’s Books Tacoma shared their extensive knowledge on the wide, and sometimes wild, world of book clubs. Morgan-Witts co-authored the 56 page report “The Inner Lives of Book Clubs” and Flaherty coordinates over a dozen book clubs in T-town.
The importance of book clubs was among the topics discussed, especially in the context of an increasingly networked world where many of us do some significant portion of our socializing online. Community members who crave human interaction and civil discourse can thrive in the safe environment that a good book club should create. The panel and audience discussed the breadth and depth of creative themes, locations, and formats that exist today right along with the traditional one-book-a-month format that still works so well for so many. We talked about the merits of trying new things as well as being willing and able to let go of facilitating groups that have lost their momentum — not every book club was meant to go on forever and many book clubbers regularly attend multiple clubs.
The following is a small sample of book clubs of the past and present that have a unique spin to them. We hope they might serve to inspire you and we wish you a happy #NationalReadingGroupMonth! Please feel free to add more in the reply section below.
Book Clubs Past & Present:
Books on Tap
A traditional monthly book club that picks a title to discuss together — the twist is that they move locations each month — trying out a new microbrewery in their city each meeting.
Books to Action
Community members read and discuss an engaging book on a current topic, attend author or speaker events, and put their new-found knowledge into action by participating in a community service project or civic engagement activity related to the book.
A monthly book group for commuters — aboard a ferry.
Financial Book Club
Every month the group discusses chosen content with a financial flavor (books, movies, magazines, Ted Talks, etc.).
Food and Book Clubs
Some choose a food theme, talk about related books and members bring a potluck item that fits the theme. Some choose a novel and then the facilitator pairs it with a cookbook, and they eat something from that cookbook together. Some meet at a bar or restaurant and enjoy a snack together without the stress of having to cook the snack themselves.
Get Lit Book Club
They chose edgier titles and met at a dive bar where the bartender would create custom cocktails based on the title they were reading together.
Hybrid Book Club
Can’t decide between traditional and open book clubs? Why not alternate between the two from month to month?
Jefferson Land Trust Natural History Society Book Club
This group enjoys natural history and science books together.
Low Vision Readers Book Group
Blind and low-vision participants start with 30 minutes of social time and community announcements, followed by an hour long book group discussion, and then an optional “after group soup” at a nearby restaurant.
Marcel Proust Book Club
A book club spent FIVE YEARS tackling In Search of Lost Time together.
Open Book Clubs
Attendees get together once a month to discuss what they have been reading and loving (or hating) in the past month. Participants get great ideas for their own reading lists and don’t deal with the pressures of a specific reading assignment.
Open Minds – Open Books
Attendees choose a difficult topic and everyone reads a title that about it. Over a potluck, they discuss the topic and the books that they have each read.
Silent Book Club
Participants get together to silently read together. This sort of club is about being around other bibliophiles and encouraging folks to take time out of their busy schedules to just relax and read.