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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Book Clubs Meet Many Needs

If you’ve been looking for some safe social interaction combined with intellectual stimulation, a book club — or two or three! — could be the perfect answer.

Maybe you were always interested in a book club, but you were just too busy during your career, and now you’re retired. Or you tried one long ago, but you didn’t like the type of books that were chosen, or the members at the meetings. Perhaps you just don’t feel like braving the Delta variant by gathering in members’ homes, even though a book club sounds like a lot of fun. We have an answer for you!

A book club can be structured any way you choose. Maybe you want to meet in members’ homes and enjoy a meal together, or you might prefer the anonymity of a Zoom call-in. After all, you can be in your pajamas and point the camera at your face, and no one will know! Your local library will have book groups, but perhaps you’d prefer the perspective of a national or international group. Or you might want to read nothing but science fiction, or history, or National Book Award finalists. 

If you choose to go online, there are a plethora of options. Do a search for specific themes or check out Facebook groups. Or try one of these tried-and-true options:
  • New York Public Library and WNYC Virtual Book Club. Launched during the pandemic, this book club is the project of the massive NYC library system and public radio station WNYC. Picks tend to be thought-provoking and powerful and are often newer (so watch for when they come out to get on your library’s hold list if you don’t want to spend on a purchase). No matter where you live, you can also check for “book discussions” on the online calendar for the 88 neighborhood branches of the NYC public library system.
  • Oprah’s Book Club. She’s been making selections for years, turning titles into best-sellers. Oprah Winfrey has remarkably savvy taste in literature, having picked such stunners as Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, a true story about a family with 12 children, six of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Oprah offers the added benefit of a book club newsletter, and videos of herself chatting with the author and pertinent guests on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Apple TV+. 
  • Read With Jenna. Presidential daughter and Today co-host Jenna Bush Hager is a natural fit for a book club host; her mother, Laura Bush, launched a foundation to help America’s libraries. Bush ranges her selections from literary stalwarts to newbie writers across a variety of topics, all under the Today show umbrella. She includes author interviews, discussion questions, and further reading recommendations. See her book comments on Facebook and Instagram and sign up to comment at #ReadWithJenna.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Club. Based on the West Coast, this club often features a California angle. Hosted by news editor and author Donna Wares, the club hosts a community event with every author that is live-streamed on YouTube and the Time’s Facebook page. The April 2020 selection featured the book Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes & Stories, by Fanny Singer, daughter of famed Berkeley chef Alice Waters. Sign up for a newsletter on the book club site.
  • Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club. Ninety million members discuss a cornucopia of books that they love — or hate! Online groups focus on topics from romance to travel, and everything in between. If you prefer a broader mix and don’t need a small group, the 13,000-member Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club is for you. To join, start or add a discussion thread on the site. 
  • Andrew Luck Book Club. This former Indianapolis Colts quarterback has a penchant for reading, and he offers everything from classics to personal picks. He’s even got selections for “rookies” (young readers). Luck interviews authors for a podcast that is linked to the home page. It’s easy, you don’t even have to join — post comments about the books by using the hashtag #ALBookClub on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 
  • The Girlfriend Book Club. Born from AARP’s newsletter and website for women 40 and up, this club offers a private Facebook group of 5,000 members open to anyone. Picks are chosen via a group poll, and authors join a live chat on the third Tuesday of each month. Members are talkative and willing to offer suggestions to those looking for their next great read. As an added bonus, there are often free book giveaways. 
  • Now Read This. This collaboration between the New York Times and PBS NewsHour chooses one fiction or nonfiction book each month “that helps us make sense of today’s world.” Picks are historical in nature and usually are already out in paperback, making them affordable if you can’t get them from your local library in time. Online discussion guides and author profiles are useful if you’re convening in a smaller, local group. Join by signing up for the newsletter or on Facebook.

You may want to use books from one or several of these clubs but host your own group in person. For extensive tips on starting your own book club, check out Bookriot’s guide. It covers where to hold meetings, how often to gather, who to invite, how to choose the book, and a host of other questions you haven’t even considered! Remember that you can make adjustments as you go. The main objective is to have fun and make friends or deepen your relationship with old ones. One useful tip is to spend the first hour or so just chatting and catching up with each other, so members will be ready to concentrate on discussing the book afterward. 

If you know someone who is interested in starting a group in a living facility, check out the suggestions here. No one is too old to join. Members with sight issues can listen to books on tape. Free selections are available from the National Library Service.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors