I belong to a book club. Founded by one of my oldest and dearest friends, the club is made up of female journalists and writers, all more or less in the middle of our lives and careers. It’s been meeting for many years now.
A confession: I often do not read the book of the month. There are various predictable excuses for this: deadlines, family stuff, too much else to read, not enough days in the week, not enough hours in the day. Sometimes the book just doesn’t float my boat. Sometimes, contrarian that I am, I would rather curl up with a book that nobody else I know is reading. My preciousss.
I was going to post a GIF of Gollum here but they were all creepy. Please enjoy instead this look at some talismans I keep in my writing space, including
—an essential clutter-related William Morris quote—“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”
—a Secular Saints candle featuring Nikola Tesla (to catch the spark of inspiration, natch)
—a figurine that’s not Gollum but Todoroki from my favorite anime, “My Hero Academia.” (Especially precious because my anime-loving son gave it to me.) Plus a brass pot full of sharpened pencils, tools without which I would be lost.
Why do I still treasure my book club when I so rarely read the book? Because it’s a sisterhood of readers. It’s not what we read so much as it is that we keep reading. That’s what brings us together—plus a shared love of the craft of journalism, not to mention the chance to share a glass of wine and some real-life talk with other women about the ups and downs of jobs, partners, children, pets, aging, the media industry, and whatever else is on our minds.
Book clubs mean a lot to authors, too, not only because they drive sales but because they offer a way to engage directly with readers almost anywhere. Some writers, including my friend Katherine Marsh (author, most recently, of Nowhere Boy), will even Skype into book clubs.
The good indie bookstores around here (we are lucky to have so many in the DMV) use book clubs as a way to build F2F literary communities for and with their customers. My lovely local, East City Bookshop, offers 14 different book clubs—for middle-grader readers, young professionals, romance lovers, social-justice seekers, and more. I keep meaning to check out W(hine) and Angst, for readers 21+ who love YA.
Not far away in Anacostia, Mahogany Books features a MahoganyBooks and Very Smart Bruthas Book Club (tagline: “One book club to rule them all”). Down on H Street, Solid State Books hosts several, including one that focuses on books by women of color. Loyalty Books in Petworth serves sherry and tea at a monthly book club devoted to Agatha Christie’s detective novels.
No matter what you like to read or write, there is a community of like-minded readers out there somewhere. Or you could just commune at home with a book that speaks to you.
Some links worth your times this week:
1) Ten skills to cultivate if you want to be a bookseller, by ECB’s own Claire Handscombe.
2) The Nationals’ Sean Doolittle visits indie bookstores when the team’s on the road. He posted a lovely little thread about it earlier this year. (H/t Laurie Muchnick)
3) “Participation and co-creation”: a case study in how libraries engage the public. (Take that, museums.)
4) “Why the heck would we spend money on something like that?” County commissioners in Citrus County, Fla., deny their library’s request for a New York Times subscription for patrons. (Bad call.)
5) An announcement that feels big and that I hope to dig into soon: The essential Internet Archive and Better World Books (the outfit many libraries send de-accessioned books to) have joined forces: “The Internet Archive will acquire, digitize, lend, store and digitally preserve millions of books from BWB’s inventory over the next few years.”
Thanks for reading! If you have a book club, cherish it. (It’s okay if you don’t always read the book.) And if you enjoy this newsletter, please share it with a friend.