I’m going to do a book club at work, how nuts is that?
More interestingly, I had a fantasy book club idea back before COVID, and I appear to have manifested it into being with my thoughts alone, because I was invited to one of the same description and I didn’t have to organize it myself. Let’s get to that in a minute
What I’ve been thinking about lately is what to do now that the world is upside down, and looks like it will be for quite a while. The natural response to this would be to run down the street screaming in your underwear, and if you’ve been doing that, cheers. Don’t blame you at all.
One of my most common ideation tools, though, is “What would be the opposite of this?” This is my idea of a Zen-like koan, a nonsensical idea, because most things are not binary and thus do not have an opposite. Like, what’s the opposite of a watermelon? The creative part of the mind really seems to like this type of question, and it can spin out endlessly.
Okay, so, what would be the opposite of isolated misery?
Sounds good, let’s go with that!
What kinds of things provide both a feeling of connection and a feeling of contentment?
That’s a sector where I feel like ‘online book club’ would be a natural fit.
The book club I had in mind was a Toastmasters club where all the speeches would be about books. I figured the members could just show up and talk about whatever they were reading, or related topics. Books they loved in the past, books they bought and couldn’t get into, favorite bookstores, new releases they had pre-ordered, TV and movie adaptations of books and how they compare, book podcasts, reading technology, buying new shelves... Anything and everything book-related.
This was my secret plan for a discovery process.
One of my least favorite things about book clubs is that basically all they are is 1. An excuse to get together and drink wine while 2. Confessing that nobody finished the book (except for me) and then 3. Complaining that they didn’t really enjoy it. Since I don’t like wine and I usually enjoyed the book, my presence was more or less an annoyance.
I figured if I made a club where everyone just talked about whatever book they wanted, or a book they had read at any point in their life, then people wouldn’t feel guilty about “not doing their homework.” They wouldn’t have to prepare. We could connect over our shared love of reading, rather than over our feelings of guilt for not measuring up in the social comparison contest.
My goal here was to have a medium-sized group of people share whatever books were exciting them, and then I could take notes and go off and read whatever sounded the best to me.
Before COVID, I had a plan to meet in our one little indie bookstore, two miles up the street from me. They hosted three monthly book clubs, I knew that, and I had it on my calendar to attend one and then pitch the owner. I had already been by to scope out where they held their meetings and how much space there would be. Ah, but then the shutdown happened just in time to cancel the very meeting I was planning to attend.
Imagine my surprise to discover, when I went to their website to check what book they were doing back in March, that - THEY ARE MEETING IN PERSON ALREADY. Whoa, that’s brave. This bookstore is like the size of my apartment. How many people are they planning to cram in there??
Anyway. Not happening. Not sure that holding an open book in front of my face counts as PPE.
I didn’t have a lot of time to fret over my lost book club, the one that never existed, before we had a lot bigger problems on our minds. Everything started happening online almost immediately. That was when I started thinking about doing a virtual book club.
Three months later, I got an invitation. My local Mensa group was hosting an online book club. Guess how it was going to be organized??
Since the first meeting was held right before my birthday, I took it as a sign that my desire had been met. I put the thought out there into the collective imagination cloud, and it rained down on me, in perhaps a better format than the one I would have made.
The only issue so far has been that I’ve already read about 80% of the recommended books. Another way to look at that is that this club is right on my wavelength, and that we will all probably enjoy one another’s suggestions.
After meeting twice, we decided to hold meetings twice a month. One meeting would be a free-for-all, and the other would be a theme, where we could either read a suggested book that we all voted on, or something related to the theme. We’re doing ‘time travel’ and ‘history of Southern California’ for our first topics if you want to do a sympathy read with us.
BTW I love Perry Mason how about you???
Safe-at-home is probably the best time in history to host a book club. You could wind up with people who share your reading tastes but live on another continent, several time zones away.
This is probably why I keep getting requests at work for a recommended reading list. I gave a talk about ideation a few weeks ago and people are still buzzing about it. I figured, what the heck, rather than post a reading list that is three pages long, why not just host it as a non-time-dimension discussion group. We’ll do a book a month, with specific chapters each week, and everyone can read them together. If there were ever a time when we could use more creative ideas on how to solve problems, that time is now.
How about you? Do you think it’s time to start a new book club?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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