APS Together is a free online book club assembled by the lovely people at A Public Space. Each book is chosen by a writer who adds insights and comments related to each day’s section of roughly 15 pages.
If you don’t already know what A Public Space is, it started as a literary journal concerned with publishing work that has been overlooked or is yet to be discovered. A Public Space (APS) is continually considered one of Pushcart’s top 20 literary magazines, and this last year (2019) several of their authors were finalists for the National Book Award.
In recent years, the literary journal has added a book imprint (APS Books), started the Deborah Pease Prize for literature, and continues to host author events as well as classes from an exceptional array of writers at their headquarters in Brooklyn.
While we were all stuck at home during the shelter in place orders, A Public Space started #TolstoyTogether, a book club where everyone would read the same 15 or so pages of War and Peace every day. Yiyun Li, renowned writer and board member of APS, would post annotations and comments about that day’s section, and from there, people would have conversations about the book on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #TolstoyTogether.
After War and Peace was read from cover to cover and we were still in quarantine, A Public Space decided to start #APSTogether. It operates in the same fashion as #TolstoyTogether but has an assortment of authors giving annotations and insights books of their choosing.
The first list of books and authors came out in May of 2020 and included:
- Garth Greenwell discussing The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
- Elizabeth McCracken discussing The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
- Ilya Kaminsky discussing Map: Collected and Last Poems of Wisława Szymborska
- Elliot Holt discussing Green Water, Green Sky by Mavis Gallant
- Ed Park discussing True Grit by Charles Portis
- Carl Philips discussing Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Since then, APS Together has added three new books and authors, extending the book club through December 2020.
- Sarah Shun-lien Bynum discussing The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.
- Aimee Bender discussing So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
- Claire Messud discussing Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
I cannot recommend this book club enough for all lovers of literature, but especially writers. The perspectives and insights shared through this book club are enlightening and numerous. Even putting aside the writer leading the discussion, so many interesting facts, questions, and considerations are shared by other members of the book club, many of which are distinguished people of letters in their own right.
I had read The Turn of the Screw twice before reading it with APS Together, but once I was reading with everyone’s comments, I began to draw parallels and see relations in the prose that I had passed over completely in my previous readings. To top off the entire experience, there was a Zoom discussion with Garth Greenwell where he went over some of the posts made about the book and answered questions submitted prior to the discussion. I walked away from that first book with a much stronger grasp on the intricacies of its prose.
What I took away from APS Together could have been reached on my own, though it would have required an incredible amount of research and several rereadings that closely analyze key parts of the book, but through sharing information, I gained knowledge that would have taken me months to extract on my own. This book club allowed me to connect the thoughts and comments of other readers to make entirely new realizations that could never have come about without the multiplicity of perspectives APS Together provides.
APS Together is a book club that will give you a rich reading experience through every book they choose and will help you incorporate different perspectives when critically evaluating any other books you read. I hope you will join #APSTogether for upcoming discussions; you will learn a lot, and your unique perspective will add texture for all of us reading and examining these wonderful works of literature.
Updates and details concerning APS Together can be found here on the A Public Space news page.
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