In case you haven’t noticed, 2018 has been the unofficial Year of the Book Club. It’s not a comeback, per se, as they’ve never truly left; book clubs can be found in almost every corner of the globe, including right here in our own Levittown Public Library. However, it’s hard to deny that one of the oldest forms of social and intellectual community is now a trending topic. This year saw the release of book club-centric films The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the aptly titled Book Club; the continued success of Oprah Winfrey’s book club; and the rise of fresh, new celebrity book clubs from actresses Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine), Emma Watson (Our Shared Shelf), and Emma Roberts (Belletrist).
At the LPL, you can participate in monthly Page Turners book discussions, moderated by a rotation of our Reference librarians and taking place at 7:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m., and/or Adult Book Discussion with Fran Cohen, offered in the afternoon at 1:00 p.m. If you are already part of a book club or would like to start your own, we also provide Book Club in a Bag, an amazing service that allows you to check out a curated tote bag kit containing 10 copies of a title, with large print and audiobook included when possible, and a binder with discussion questions, information about the author, background information pertaining to the subject matter of the book, and more. The kits are available to Levittown Public Library cardholders. We currently have 15 titles available, but the Library has access to over 200 additional titles through a consortium of Nassau County Libraries. The Children’s Department is also in the process of organizing Book Club in a Bag kits for younger readers, proving that book clubs are not limited by age!
American book clubs have been around for hundreds of years, dating back to the seventeenth century. Some sources cite the first book club as that of Anne Hutchinson, a Puritan woman who held an all-female Bible study group at her home during the 1630’s. Although men are not absent from the tradition–see, for example, Grigg from my favorite novel about a book club, The Jane Austen Book Club–women are most often the ones spearheading book clubs. As a matter of fact, it’s the Women’s National Book Association, an organization whose mission is to “increase public awareness of the joy and value of shared reading,” that designated October of every year as National Reading Group Month.
In conjunction with this, the Levittown Public Library will be hosting Book Group Night on Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. This fun and informative evening will include panel discussions about the benefits and “how to’s” of book clubs–how to start one, how to select books, how to create discussion questions, and more. Reference Librarians will be on hand to answer questions and help to spread the word about Book Club in a Bag.
On the fence about joining or starting a book club? Here are a few reasons why book clubs are worth the effort:
You get to talk about books. This is a no-brainer. But when you think about it, how much time do you really get to spend talking in-depth about a book with at least one other person who has also read it? My guess is almost never.
It encourages you to read (and finish!) books you might not have otherwise read. I mean this in the best possible way: reading a book for a book club can feel like homework. If the book is any good, it will be a much more enjoyable process than doing calculus homework. But the point is, you will be accountable to push through, to make the time for it, and to finish it, just like you did for your calculus homework. This includes books outside your comfort zone, books it might never have occured to you to read. Case in point: When Oprah Winfrey selected Anna Karenina as a book club pick, the 837-page tome, originally published in Russian back in 1875, shot up the bestseller list.
There’s food, laughter, community, and maybe even some wine! Book clubs are as much about the community created through shared reading as they are about the books themselves. For the hardworking parent, caregiver, or professional who barely has the time to shower and eat, a book club is an opportunity to take time for themselves and connect with new friends. In some cases, a book club is a way to reconnect. My best friend lives in another state. Over the summer we started a makeshift book club (we only read one book, but it was a good one: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu) as another way of keeping in touch. Thanks to the Internet and social media, we can also take advantage of the myriad book clubs online, including those mentioned above, like Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine or Our Shared Shelf, which allow millions of readers to participate asynchronously, without face-to-face meetings.
Book clubs keep your mind fresh and help keep depression and anxiety at bay. Book clubs are great for any age, and they have special benefits for retirees and senior citizens. Research has shown that social isolation, which can happen when individuals no longer have regular connections (i.e. work, school, community organizations) can lead to feelings of depression. Joining a book club is an easy and cheap way to remain connected to a community or to even create your own community!
We look forward to seeing you at Book Group Night on Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. to answer all your questions and convince you that you belong in a book club!