As much as I love picking up a book in a library or reading in local park, in my heart, I prefer reading alone. I don't think I love anything more than curling up in bed with a good book and a glass of wine, or sinking into a hot bubble bath with a paperback in hand — it explains why most of my books are both waterlogged and wine-stained. I like to think of those little scars as memories of a night well-spent.
And yet, despite my antisocial reading proclivities, I've always had a bit of an obsession with book clubs. The only book club I can remember actively taking part in was a mother-daughter affair at our local library, and I still cannot walk by the reading room a without a brief skip of my heart. Those were the good ol' days.
Unfortunately, "old" seems to be the operative word when I think of book clubs. The only time I hear about friends coming together over books these days seems to involve final exams. Does this mean that the book club is going the way of the dodo or MSN messenger? Does this mean my dream of someday sharing a good book (and perhaps even a beverage) with a group of likeminded strangers is doomed to failure?
Unlike my dream of one day owning a Volkswagen Beetle or trying out bangs, this is one dream I refuse to let go. So, instead of giving up, I've done what I do best — locked myself in the bath with a few books, and brainstormed some alternatives to the traditional model that may just be able to bring back the book club from the brink of extinction. Put on your favorite record, wriggle into those skinny jeans, and join me in welcoming the book club into the modern era with these 7 new takes on the classic idea.
Try Your Discussion in 140 Characters or Fewer
I have a private theory that one of the reasons so few people make time for book clubs these days is a deep and abiding fear of the time that it takes. So here's a thought: Why not cut all those searing isights down to 140 characters or fewer? After all, digital communities are communities, too, and if the best way to bring of friends together over a good book is via the magic of the Web, then I say Tweet on.
Add Some Sizzle
I've done the math, and statistically speaking I'm 1000 percent more likely to show up to any given event if there's food involved — especially if the food is prepared with love and a dash of literature. So, whether you're getting together to form a cookbook club or just cook in the style of whatever book you're reading, bringing the book club into the kitchen seems like the perfect way to update the old formula for a delicious future to come. After all, if the abundance of homemade pickles and artisanal hot sauce out there has taught us anything, surely it has taught us that we Millennials love ourselves a good meal.
From Walden Pond to the Mark Twain House, there are literary landmarks all around us. Bring a dash of wanderlust to your literary adventures, and build a book club around the joy of travel. Pick one place from every book you read to visit as a group, or build a trip around the concepts you find in your novel. Find a tale set in the tropics for the ultimate spring break getaway, or center your reading on stories closer to home and find new fascination in the restaurants, parks, and corner stores of your hometown as represented in fiction.
Get Granular and Become A Specialist
There's no law that says you've got to read whatever's on that front table at your local independent bookstore — if you've got a particular penchant for fantasy, or you find Agatha Christie novels irresistible, lean into that obsession and build a book club around it. Nothing unites readers like genuine passion, and the more particular the passion, the better. Let that very specific freak flag fly, and build a book club around stories featuring unicorns in crisis or novels that take place in the heart of the mountains. In a world as big and beautiful as ours, you're sure to find other readers who share the same literary loves that you do, and what better foundation upon which to build the book club of the future than the unbreakable bond of mutual obsession.
Mix Up Your Membership
Why is it that most book clubs seem to feature groups of readers who are remarkably similar in almost every way? At school, at work, and out on the town, we almost always nestle ourselves within a community of people who look, walk, talk, and think just like we do. So, when building a book club, why not reach out to literature-lovers outside of your regular social circles to give the group a little depth? After all, what better way to learn more about the books you love than by sharing them with a genuinely diverse group of people who bring a variety of perspectives to every meeting?
Make Your Schedule Flexible
As nearly all of the plants I have owned — and killed — could attest to (if they were still with us), I have a hard time committing to a schedule. Making my way weekly, or even monthly, to a book club meeting feels daunting, even when I don't actually have a real group I'm committed to. Why worry about regular meetings? You don't have to jam all of the talk of a title into a single meeting: drawing out the conversation of a great book over the course of months — or even years — will only make the time you do spend at those very irregular meetings even sweeter.
Be Adaptable By Considering Adaptations
There's nothing like a good gimmick to get a new club off the ground, so in the spirit of novel ideas, consider making adaptations the focus of your friendly gatherings. With all the incredible book-to-screen transformations taking place over the past few years and no end in sight, you'll have plenty of material to choose from, and you'll be able to enjoy the books you select in more than one form with your newfound friends. Now that's what I call book club gold.
Image: Shava Ross.com / Flickr