I sat there crossed-legged, hands folded neatly in my lap. My upper body was leaning forward slightly as if being pulled by some magnetic force. My breathing…..was I even breathing? I must have been.
I couldn’t take the anticipation. What was going to happen? Could that tiny caterpillar really eat all of that food and not get sick? Was he going to die? Oh God, please don’t die. STOP EATING SO MUCH!
Relief swept over me. He made it! Not only that, but he had turned into a beautiful butterfly. And now… its time for cookies, juice and to make my own Hungry Caterpillar with colorful pompoms and fuzzy pipe cleaners. How much better can things possibly be?!
From as young as I can remember, I used to go to the library on Saturday mornings and then on weekdays during the summer for reading time. A librarian or volunteer read to a group of children and there were refreshments and some type of themed activity following. We got to ask questions, talk more in-depth about the book. As I got older, discussions followed until eventually we were expected to be reading the book prior to the meeting and coming prepared to share with the group.
I didn’t realize that a seed had been planted at that time. One that over the years would be cultivated by the carefully designed programs of the staff at the library. They watered the seeds with gentle encouragement and fun. They fostered a love by crafting an environment to actively engage with the reading process. The result that was it end up growing solid, strong and firmly rooted.
I didn’t realize that at the tender age of four, I was a regular attendee at my local book club. Something that I would continue to seek out through my adult years.
I constantly find myself seeking out a reading buddy, a sympathetic ear or at the very least, an unsuspecting victim that I can corner and gush about my latest read, discuss specific passages or ask “what was that about?!“. After I devour a book, it sometimes leaves me with too many feelings and thoughts that I can’t contain to just myself!
Book clubs are a great source of socializing on a literary level without running the risk of people ghosting you or running the other direction when you start to approach. Some books just need to be discussed. Sometimes it is because of a strong emotional pull, the impact (in either a positive or negative way), other times it is because of the need to process it out loud and with someone in order to really line up the thoughts still swirling around in your head, and other times it is to compare notes on what meaning it had to various people.
The connection with like-minded people and the lively discussions that come along with such gatherings also means that they are places where you can talk about anything. It starts with a structured discussion about the book, but then the conversation can lead down any path such as politics, grief, life experiences, belief systems or illness with frequent stops along the way and often words of support or encouragement when needed.
Book Clubs introduce you to all sorts of new people. Most times, I would venture to guess, they are going to be interesting at the very least — I mean they, just like you, are drawn to being there and sharing with others the great joys of reading. Many times they hail from various backgrounds and experiences, and from places you may never have met them otherwise. My current book club is composed of a bunch of folks that I never would have met without joining that are a variety of ages and from all over the world. We meet on an internet call once a month where borders and timezones aren’t a deterrent.
This takes our discussion to a greater level, in-depth discussions and a wide range of opinions and viewpoints, all contributing to increasing knowledge and expanding appreciation for various cultures and unique experiences. Some of these members have become dear friends over the course of time.
Belonging to a book club can do wonders for your communication skills —even if you are more of a wallflower and just opt to listen for the first few. In time, even the quietest find a voice since it’s much too hard for us bookish fiends to silence those opinions or thoughts on the latest read.
You’ll learn how to formulate your thoughts into words and be encouraged to think a bit more deeply about why you liked or didn’t like something. You learn to listen to different viewpoints without interrupting, how to engage in healthy and respectful debates and how to accept the disagreements without personalizing them. Something I dare say is useful at most family gatherings, especially around the holidays.
A book club gives you the opportunity to expand your horizons and step out of your reading comfort zone. Together, you will be exploring new genres, authors or works you might have otherwise overlooked or never known existed.
For instance: Did you know shark embryos cannibalize their littermates in the womb, with the largest embryo eating all but one of its siblings. Apparently, it’s part of a struggle for paternity in utero, where babies of different fathers compete to be born. Talk about sibling rivalry! Yea, we read a book on cannibalism, what did your book club read?
Sometimes the club offers other opportunities. We were fortunate enough to have Vanessa Hua as a special guest after reading her recent book A River of Stars. She talked to us about her writing process, the background of the book, answered questions and shared in our stories. It was an amazing experience and definitely one I would never have had otherwise.
So, get out there and find a book club. Any one. There are many different types so don’t be discouraged if one doesn’t do it for you, move on to the next.
You can even just start your own – take questions from mine —or just read along with me and share your thoughts and start a discussion in the comments below each selection!