When Worlds Collide: Starting a Book Club

Photo by  Kate Bernard

Photo by Kate Bernard

"How many people are going to be here?" asked my husband.

I took out the sheet of names and counted them quickly.  "Eighteen, if everyone on this list comes," I replied.

"We've never had that many people in our house before.  How is that going to work?"

Uh...I hope these random strangers like snuggling...?

Two days later, dinner was prepared for a crowd, and the crisp fall air flowing through our home hinted of Pumpkin Roll Scentsy wax and expectation.  At 6:20, Andrew took our girls upstairs and, one by one, fourteen guests filed into our kitchen for Book Club.

The weather could not have been more perfect for our first gathering, so we sat in a circle on the back porch, The Glass Castle in laps and drinks in hands.  Nervous chatter continued for a few moments before I announced the start of our discussion.  "Introduce yourself and give a rating to the book out of five stars." From that point on, the conversation progressed as naturally as the sun setting over my rooftop.  

"Could you believe that her parents did that?!"

"I wanted to throw the book across the room!"  

"I KNOW!  I couldn't believe it!"  

"I laughed SO hard."  

"I literally read that part out loud at least 6 times to my husband."  

Bekah, if you're reading my blog, I'm still snickering to myself, thinking about your retelling of the homemade braces.

As I looked around the circle and listened to the commentary from my fellow nerds, I was suddenly struck by how many different types of individuals from various seasons of my life were congregated in the same place on a random Monday evening.  My very first childhood friend was there, but so were former coworkers from my years as a teacher, church acquaintances, a neighbor, moms from my kids' daycare, a college roommate, and my sister-in-law.  Their ages ranged from 27 to 61.  

This is what Ellen and I had wanted to create when we decided, early last summer on a trip to Portland, to start a book club.  Neither of us is a particularly avid reader (though I suppose that is relative), but we loved the idea of assembling a group of complete strangers with the hope that, through conversations about the books we read but also about life beyond the pages, these ladies would find companionship in the collision of their unrelated worlds.  

I am of the belief that words are powerful, and since books are full of words, the right book at the right time does have the capacity to change someone's life.  

But people's lives are also changed by other people.  Nearly all human beings are longing to hear, "I know.  Me too," acknowledgements that they are understood.  Bring together 14 unique perspectives surrounding the same book, and those two comforting words, "me too," are bound to surface at least a handful of times in the conversation.      

Ellen and I aren't geniuses or "inspiring" or anything else for starting a book club.  We're just excited about laughing and crying together, initially over book pages, but eventually over all of the crazy twists and turns that this life brings to a group of people who seemingly have little in common but a love of reading.  

Because Book Club is about books, but it isn't only about books.

You can read more about books I've personally enjoyed or read in book club here.