In September 2001, I joined my first book club. I recall my excitement at seeing the announcement in our church worship folder. As a young mom struggling for writing time and craving adult interaction, this book club was an ideal outlet.
I remember the first book these women and I read together. I still have many, if not all, of those paperbacks. Eventually, our group shifted to finding library copies or finding discounted titles through a new device from Amazon called a Kindle. I served as the coordinator for a number of years before deciding I needed to focus more on home education. I continued to be part of the group until we moved on to another church in 2010.
Another group grew out of the first that focused less on pre-read, approved books for the church library and more on classics and literary prize-winning bestsellers. Three of us continue to meet.
My mom and I decided about four years ago to choose a book to read together each month. Although we had recommended titles to one another and read some of the same series for years, reading books together has been more than an excuse for mother-daughter time.
I think each of these book clubs has provided more than a checking-off of must-reads-before-I-die.
Faithful Friendships: Meeting with my two reader friends approximately every month continues to be more than reading a book together. Inevitably, we share about our daily ups and downs and bolster one another with words of wisdom and encouragement.
Focused Conversation: As an introvert, I thrive on deep topics and in small groups. Small talk is fine to have with coffee baristas and grocery clerks. Also I desire to avoid idle chatter that has a tendency to turn into gossip or worse. I prefer to prevent conflict. Gathering for coffee and conversation with a common purpose seems to combat needless, harmful friction and promote compassion.
Foundational Knowledge: I have read many books I would not choose to read had it not been for my book clubs. Some I struggled to read, and some I simply didn't finish. Others have been a balm to heart and soul. Most of all, reading and discussing books has strengthened my mind beyond my typical comfort zone. Some I hated, but learned to appreciate after hearing others' viewpoints. Some I loved and defended. But, almost always, I've learned how to be a more deliberate and discerning reader.
Fundamental Growth: Writers know the profound truth that we must read to write. During those young-mom years, I bemoaned the lack of solitude to think clearly enough to string a few words together. I determined soon after joining my first book club that this time would be known as "my research years." I grew as a writer because I grew as a reader.
I highly encourage everyone regardless of life stage or life purpose to seek out or start a book club. Pick one or two friends who enjoy reading, too. Check out the groups at local libraries. Inquire if there is a church book club in the area. Join an online group on Goodreads. Borrowing from the original tagline of my first book club: "Book Club is more than reading a good book."