Nine years ago, during a discussion about the library needing a book club, then-director Mary Chasseur told me there was a history of short lived or unsuccessful book clubs at the library. We noodled on it a good deal deciding what could cause these good faith efforts to fade.
Unlike many book clubs that are simply gatherings of like-minded friends who already have an established social network and can be flexible setting their meeting times and are willing to give it a go reading their friends’ choices, library book clubs can easily be people with no connection other than they all love to read. The sense of obligation to read and discuss in a group of people – even a very small group – can sometimes be too daunting to be sustained.
But what would happen if we had a no obligation book club? Although we needed a common regular meeting time, everything else was negotiable. For example, most book clubs agree to all read the same book that they will discuss next time they meet. But we don’t have to do it that way. Instead, what if people who read came together to tell each other about what they’ve been reading and whether they enjoyed it or not and why. And what if people who were having a dry streak when it came to finding time to read, simply didn’t worry about it. Just show up and others will give their own recommendations. And what if someone may have been reading but just didn’t feel like talking this month? What if without apology they just decided to listen this month? What if no one ever embarrassed someone about it or was anything but supportive? And what if everyone also got a free lunch?
That is the no obligation book club, Books for Lunch, that the library has sustained for nine years now. Depending on people’s vacation schedules and other life interventions, we can have anywhere from eight to eighteen people during any month, meeting from 12:30 – 2:00 the second Tuesday of every month. (And what if it’s fine to walk in late or leave early? It is, by the way.)
This intrepid group has become a valued circle of friends who read, and I always love to hear what they’ve been reading. Most of us – maybe all of us – build our own reading lists from hearing what others are reading at Books for Lunch.
This is a perfect time to join the group. We have been Zooming for over a year but beginning July 13, at 12:30, we will be meeting together again at the library! It is time to get back around the big table and share each other’s company and book opinions. For a while longer, the library will not be serving lunch at our meetings as we normally used to. However, everyone is encouraged to brown bag a lunch if you like so we can still break bread together. (Again, though, it’s fine either way – no pressure.)
To add to the “no pressure” reality of this group, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a new cookbook to talk about, have recently read the newest highbrow novel the critics are loving on, decide to share a Hollywood biography or a new non-fiction historical tome, have completed the 25th book in your favorite cozy mystery series, have picked up a classic to re-read or read for the first time, or just tried a new author in Scandi Noir – all tastes are welcome. You are welcome.
See you at the Library!
(By Roz Weedman for publication in the Frankenmuth News on June 30, 2021)