Book Clubbing During COVID

I recently tripped across an online report Book Clubs in Lockdown, that provides the results of a survey of 3,400+ book club members throughout the United States. It explores how book clubs are responding and adapting to the events of 2020, and what it means for the future. Its findings show that three-quarters of book club respondents were still meeting. Zoom was far and away the preferred virtual meeting platform (65%) while others met outdoors (17%). The quarter that had stopped meeting had held their gatherings in public places, such as public libraries and churches. Most everyone was eager to get back to meeting in person.

I reached out to some of Lawrence’s book clubs to see what they are reading and how they are navigating the pandemic. I’m pleased to report that despite COVID and Zoom fatigue, Lawrence book clubs are still at it, finding ways to meet safely to discuss their favorite reads. Here’s a quick report:

MPBC  just finished reading Caste:The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. Club members loved the book and agreed there is so much to discuss that it could have been the topic of multiple book club meetings. For March, the club is reading On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist by Clarissa Ward. Written by CNN’s chief international correspondent, it takes readers from Russia to China to Syria. The club has met by Zoom a few times and is trying hard to safely meet in person. They keep a close watch on the weather and quickly call a driveway get together on warmer days.

PBR Book Club is currently reading Patricia Lockwood’s new novel, No One is Talking About This. Launched early this year, the book follows an unnamed female protagonist's interactions with a virtual platform called "the portal." For February, the PBR crew read The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, a three-time Hugo Award-winning author. This is the first book in her new Great Cities Series. PBR Book Club members gave the book a thumbs up. Their April books selection is yet to be determined. “We sort of fly by the seat of our pants.” 

2nd Wednesday of the Month Club recently read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. The teaser for this book reads, “Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.” Nearly all of the 2nd Wednesday members loved the book, save one member who is not a fantasy fan. Up next on their reading list is Deacon King Kong by James McBride. A crime novel centering around life in the projects in the 1960's New York City, the book is listed as one of Time magazine’s Must Read Books of 2020.

Bluestocking Book Club has met mostly by Zoom. They recently opted for a light read and chose Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman’s debut novel. The club followed it up with The Vanishing Half, a historical fiction novel by Brit Bennett. Club members gave both books high marks. Next up for the Bluestockings is Caste:The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. They plan to discuss that book in May and June.

Amicus Libris Book Club is also reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. Prior to that, club members read The Rosie Project  by Australian novelist Graeme Simsion. The novel centers on a professor who struggles to have a serious relationship with women. With a friend's help, he devises a questionnaire to assess the suitability of female partners. His plans are set off course when he meets Rosie, who does not fit many of his criteria. The club reports that they had great discussions around both of these books.

Couples Book Club has not met since last fall. Their last selection was Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It is described as “A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous break up.” The club found it to be a fun and enjoyable read and reports that the audio version was particularly good because it featured a different voice for each character. The club is hoping to get back together once the weather improves to discuss Deacon King Kong by James McBride.  

-Kathleen Morgan is the Direction of Development & Community Partnerships at Lawrence Public Library.