Dispatches from a newly minted book club

While reading is often thought of as a solitary activity, book clubs and reading groups provide a bit of social camaraderie for certain book lovers.

Lawrence is lucky to have a wide and active community of readers, with lots of book clubs of all sizes popping up across town. To provide even MORE bookish goodness, the Book Squad decided to start another book-a-month club that meets downtown.

The Third Thursday Book Club gathers monthly in a cozy room at 7 E. 7th St. and has gotten off to a fantastic start. This is the first time I’ve started a new club from scratch, and I have been so pleased with the discussions! Our meetings have reminded me why these groups are so important — they allow us to connect with one another about our experiences through the lens of a shared book.

(photo via 7 e 7th - did I mention there is wine?)

Our first book, "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides, was one that I was both nervous and excited to “assign” to the group. There is SO MUCH going on in this novel! Eugenides tells an epic saga that involves race relations, family drama, genetics, superstition, Greek culture, sex, sexuality and more. It’s a whopper! The small group that met in April took up the entire two hours with our conversation. We touched on the above themes as they related to the cast of characters in "Middlesex," and the discussion opened up into wider revelations about our own experiences. The novel’s deeply personal narration gave us courage to open up about families, sex education, traditions and other topics.

Similarly, when a slightly larger group gathered in May to talk about "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri, our conversation surrounded the characters’ lives as well as the ways we related — or did not relate — to the narrative. I learned about fellow club members’ own immigration experiences, about other members’ travels near Calcutta where the novel takes place, about love and loss and relationships that were similar to or different from the brothers’ in the story. Once again, our time together flew by, and I know that I walked away with a richer perspective than I had when I arrived.

Last week, "Euphoria" by Lily King — a novel based loosely on the life of Margaret Mead — was our book du jour. A couple of the members gave additional historical information that enhanced our appreciation of the novel. As with the previous months, some folks came to the meeting without having read the novel (not minding spoilers!) and left saying that they learned a lot, both about the book itself and the people discussing it.

Our next book for July is "Being Mortal," a non-fiction release from 2014 that is sure to inspire some heavy-yet-enlightening conversation. While discussing death and end-of-life experiences with a room full of people might not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, I am truly looking forward to connecting once again and re-discovering how books can bring near-strangers together. You are welcome to join us!

Post script: I know that not everyone wants to meet in person, and/or our busy schedules simply don’t provide the opportunity. Along with groups that meet face-to-face, there are also plenty of online book challenges and clubs to participate in (along with the Oprah 2.0 club, Emma Watson launched a feminist book club on Goodreads, and science fiction fans may enjoy i09’s active club that sometimes includes feedback from authors themselves!) Using a common reading experience to connect to others is truly a beautiful thing and is a way to provide a little break from such a “solitary” activity.

— Kate Gramlich is a Reader's Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

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