I’m an introvert, through and through, so when I volunteered to keep my local book club going, I might have felt an overwhelming rush of anxiety. The host, another Rioter, was moving away and wanted to pass the torch to a fellow colleague. The group was small and rather intimate, with many of the attendees being regulars. I had only popped into the group at Porter Square Books only a couple times before. I knew absolutely no one’s names and now I was expected to facilitate meetings and discussions and more than once, I woke up in the middle of the night with the thought of WHY ON EARTH DID I COMMIT TO THIS.
As someone who knows what it feels like to be the “new kid” at school, my feelings at first were very similar to that. Will they like me? Will people stop coming because I’m not a friendly or approachable host? Will people care or judge me that I mostly read romance? Will I be given a swirly and pushed into a smelly, gym locker?!
But nearly six months in and it’s becoming one of the things I look forward to most.
While it’s one thing to talk about books with internet friends on Twitter, there’s something else entirely to be sitting with a group of people and seeing the way their face lights up when talking about a book they love. And since we’re an “any book” club, we often discuss books we’ve read and loved or hated, rather than all of us reading the same book.
What I truly love most about the book club is being introduced to books I wouldn’t normally pick up otherwise. Sometimes, I’ll read a jacket copy and think, eh…this book isn’t for me. However, after hearing someone in the group explain the plot or talk about what they really liked about a main character or a setting or how the prose made them feel, it usually gets me to change my mind about giving a book a chance. While those who compose the jacket copy to the book are trying to sum up the basic plot while marketing it to readers, nothing is more effective in selling a book than a word-of-mouth recommendation from book people.
I can say that my TBR isn’t grateful for the group. We all have ways of keeping track of the books discussed. Some bring notebooks to write down the books we loved, while others have their phones out and the Goodreads app open. There’s scribbling in pages and tapping on screens, excited gasps as readers share their favorite moments from a particular book or friendly debates over whether a new release lived up to its hype.
Best of all though, this book club has challenged my comfort zone. It can be uncomfortable at times and I usually feel that pang of anxiety the morning before we meet up, but I’m always happy I went when it’s all over. My reading list has expanded to authors and genres I wouldn’t normally try. I’ve received personal recommendations from my fellow attendees. I’ve gone out of my way to read a book mentioned, just for the purpose of talking about it at the next meeting. And of course, the bane of hosting a book club at a bookstore is the hurting it puts on your wallet after we adjourn.
So thank you, my book club. Thank you for making me a better, smarter, and more passionate reader. Thank you for being welcoming. And thank you for being a great reminder of why I love the book community so much.