Book Club Recap

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I participated in a book club last year at my local library and I get so many questions about it on Instagram, so I thought I’d write a post and share my wealth of knowledge with you all! JK about the ‘wealth of information,’ but I did think you might like to hear more about my book club in specific, how I liked the experience, and how we do things. I LOVED participating in this book club.  This is the first time that I’ve stuck with and actually read all the books assigned to us in a book club and it made such a difference for me. I know, I know…you’re thinking, ‘duh Melissa. Actually reading the books makes a HUGE difference’ but what I mean is, reading the books, taking notes while reading, thinking critically, and then discussing the themes, authors and ideas the book brought up in me felt like I was an actual participant in the club not only that day, but all the weeks leading up to the book discussion. It felt like an enjoyable flashback to my college days (high five to all the English majors out there).

DETAILS:

  1. Everyone emailed a list of 1-3 books that they want to talk about for the upcoming year
  2. We all voted (via email) and the moderator picked the top 6 books that would be discussed (we meet every 6ish weeks with summers off)
  3. Then we met for our first meeting to hear the top 6 books, got the future meeting dates, and talked about who the leaders for each discussion would be. We also got the first book (because we are amazingly lucky to receive all of the books for free via a donation from out local Friends of the Library)

That’s the general details of how we set up the year’s worth of meetings and the process we took to get there.

When picking the books, we also have some criteria that the book must adhere to:

  • title must be available in paperback in the US (cost reasons)
  • no more than 400-500 pages
  • no themes, authors or books that are discriminatory in nature
  • must provide for good discussion (strong themes, diverse and complex characters, hold some literary merit, etc. are all great things to keep in mind)

DURING DISCUSSION:

The person leading the discussion would give us a little background information about the author and/or book and then start the discussion off with a question or just a general, “How did you like this one?” or “What did you think?” and we would go from there. Many times there was a handout with whatever was needed for that discussion (character list, definitions, maps, etc.) or with thinking questions about the book. This was a group of diverse participants and we often had differing views a lot of the time, which led to some fantastic discussions. Periodically, the leader would have to get us back on track, but they really let us take the reigns of the discussion. I will say, I think it depends on how “spirited” your group is, but a group of adults should be able to talk, take turns and respect one another pretty well, but if not, that’s why there was always a designated leader for the day to drive the conversation back to the book and the current discussion. And there was always a snack (we had one person who was a great baker and always brought in delicious cookies. She moved away, so maybe I’ll step up next year? We’ll see-I don’t know if I’m ready for that commitment yet ;)) We had a lot of people, probably around 20-25 or so at each meeting, but it was never chaotic and always a really enjoyable conversation.

I really enjoyed each and every book and discussion, even when I thought for sure I was not going to like the book. In fact, each discussion opened my eyes to things I might not have thought about while reading, and made me enjoy the book even MORE-every single time. We have a wide range of ages, backgrounds and genders in this group (I think that is the great thing about joining a book club through your local library, or a public space rather than just having one with your friends) and I can’t wait for the next year’s to begin! In case you’re interested, here is the list of books we read this past year (click the title to get more info and purchase the book). Each and every one held up on it’s own merit and I feel like a better person after having read and discussed each one. Some I enjoyed more than others, but all provided to be fantastic for a discussion and I’m happy to have read them all.

  1. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
  2. Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif
  3. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
  6. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

I hope you have a chance to join a book club if that’s something you think you would enjoy or something you’ve been thinking about. Although there are 100’s of ways to go about starting, joining, or participating in a book club, this worked wonderfully for us! Plus, my wife and I joined it together last year and that made it even more fantastic 🙂

So, there you have it! Let me know if you participate in a book club and if so, what books you’ve read and how you like it. If you aren’t a part of one now, would you like to join one? As always, find me over on Instagram or comment here!

bookishfolk..read instead.

 

 

 

Independent Bookstore Day!

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 2.47.14 PMThis Saturday is one of my favorite days of the year!  It’s Independent Bookstore Day! Okay, I love the first snow of the year almost as much, and most holidays, and pizza nights…but you get my point 😉 This is a day to celebrate all things indie, visit your local bookstores, make purchases from local shops, put money back into your community, talk about the importance of independent bookstores, and celebrate all the reasons why local indies mean so much to you. I live in a great city, with a few fantastic independent bookstores, so I plan to visit those this year, but I was trying to think of other ways we can all celebrate the day! Here is a list of ways to show your love of independent bookstores on Saturday regardless of your location, ability, finances, work schedules, etc!

  1. Visit your local indie bookstore and put some money back into your community
  2. Order online from your closest independent bookstore! I always try to keep my dollars as close to me as possible. Here is a link to help.
  3. Follow some indie bookstores on social media and give them some love
  4. Check out Powell’s online (or MANY other bookstores that also have online shops) when your instinct is just to click on Amazon. I totally get it, Amazon serves a purpose, but sometimes Powells/other indie bookstores have fantastic deals and some sell used books too!
  5. Get a literary tattoo (this might be a stretch, but I love a good literary tattoo)
  6. Research your local indie for author visits/signings happening this year and get those dates on your calendars.
  7. Get online and talk about books with your fellow bookstagrammers. I’ll be hanging out in the world and always love to chat! (@bookishfolk) Use the hashtag #bookstoreday
  8. Plan to include local indie visits when you travel. There is literally nothing better than this in my humble opinion 🙂
  9. Leave reviews for your favorite independent bookstores on Yelp or FB
  10. Talk to your friends, in person, about books and local bookstores
  11. Bring your family/out of town visitors to your local bookstore
  12. Introduce a young person to the love of reading by bringing them a book or taking them to visit your local indie
  13. Start a book club. A lot of indie bookstores will give your club a discount on your book too
  14. If you listen to audiobooks, consider a subscription to Libro.fm. It’s a monthly subscription like audible, but the money goes to your local bookstore.
  15. If you can’t afford a book, that’s totally okay! Head to your local bookstore and grab a chocolate bar, a cup of coffee, a print, a pencil, bookmark, or anything else that you can afford. Every bit counts!

What really matters here folks is getting out, supporting your local indies any way you can and spreading the word that community matters, spending your dollars locally matters, and independent bookstores matter, not only on Saturday, but every day of the year! I hope you enjoy the day and please, let me know here or on Instagram, how you spent your day celebrating!

bookishfolk…read instead.

A Few of my Favorite Bookstores: IRL and on the Internet

I have always, always, always loved bookstores. When I was little, we mostly went to the library for our book browsing, but I can remember the magical moments when we got to go to a bookstore. Most of the time, I wasn’t going there to buy anything, but the browsing was top-notch, the book smells made me happy and the copious amounts of books with the potential to bring one home was enough to make me giddy. Plus…apparently my parents didn’t seem to think I was going to get into any trouble or stolen from a bookstore, so I had the independence to browse on my own, sit down and read in the aisles, and enjoy some first-time independence.

As I got older, I remember that same joy when I got to go to the the Scholastic book fair. If you’re reading this book blog…odds are you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. This was book buying at it’s finest (to a 2nd grader at least). I would bring home that pamphlet with such pride and go through it probably 10 times before I got out the pencil and started circling and making decisions. I’d bring those circles of dreams to my mom and I usually got a few dollars to make them come true. Side note: how did a few dollars get me 2-3 books and a bookmark?!  They were basically giving books away at that price point, but I digress…

Then, when I finally became a working young adult, all hell broke loose. I had a paycheck and I was determined to spend 80-90% of it on books. Man…I miss those days when my only financial responsibilities were coffee purchases, snacks and books. And don’t even get me started on the days when I was old enough to have my own credit card.  The moral of the story is-I have always loved a bookstore. I have always valued books and writers and the idea that I could own a book as my very own. I have always found a peace inside a bookstore where books are a plenty, adventures are ready to be had, I’m surrounded by bookish, like-minded people…and the not so subtle smell of coffee is embedded in the walls.

Bookstores and libraries are truly my love language. So I thought it would be fun to take you on an adventure of some of my favorite bookstores in the US. Some I’ve been to, some I’ve only experienced through online purchases and/or Instagram…but all hold a special place in my heart.

Strand Bookstore (NYC)

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Books are Magic (NYC)

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Parnassus Books (Nashville, TN)

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Tattered Cover (Denver, CO)

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Literati (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

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Women and Children First (Chicago, IL)

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The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, CA)

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Powell’s (Portland, OR)

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Boulder Bookstore (Boulder, CO)

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Unabridged Bookstore (Chicago, IL)

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Elliot Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)

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Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO)

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Busboys and Poets (Washington, DC)

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Avid Bookstore (Athens, Georgia)

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City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA)

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There you have it! There are so many fantastic, independent bookstores in the US and I have a goal to visit them all! In the meantime, I’ll subtly stalk them on Instagram…and dream 🙂

My Top Books of 2018

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I read a lot of books and I love a lot of books. Sometimes books touch me at certain times and I find myself obsessed, and other times, I’m just not in the right mindset for a specific book, even though I know in a different circumstance, I might love it. All of that is to say…take this list with a grain of salt. These are a list of my favorite books that I read in  2018, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a ton of other books that I have read and loved, or a bunch other books that missed the mark for me-but that you should definitely read, or a TON of books that I didn’t get a chance to read yet. But here is my list of books that touched me this year, and reminded me of why I read.

1. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

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2. We Were Witches by Ariel Gore

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3. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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4. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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5. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

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6. Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim

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7. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

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8. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman

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9. Summer of Salt Katrina Leno

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10. Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft by Tess Sharpe

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11. Educated by Tara Westover

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12. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

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13. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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14. We are Okay by Nina LaCour

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15. Midnight at the Bright Idea Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

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16. Forever, or a Long, Long Time Caela Carter

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bookishfolk…read instead