My book club was born about four and a half years ago while I was out for margaritas with three girlfriends. As all newly married women, we joked that it was probably time to form a cliche married ladies book club. No sooner had the words come out of our mouths did we realize we weren’t joking. It was time to start a book club.
Over the years, we’ve stuck together through approximately 50 books, three moves, seven (soon to be eight) babies, at least three job changes, husbands who travel for work, and now, a global pandemic.
Book club might seem like just a monthly girls night, but really it is so much more than that. Reading a book each month gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment and also gives me a recurring non-work, non-kid thing to do. Relaxing with a good book is one of my favorite ways to spend a little “me time”. It’s also a nice way to wind down before bed each night, even if some nights I can only stay awake for a few pages.
The beauty of book club is the linking of a book to a monthly girls night: It makes both the book and the meeting a priority. I put in the time to read all month, so I’m definitely not missing book club. And I want to go to book club each month so I make sure to prioritize the book. It gives me something to look forward to each month – the book itself, the discussion and most of all, the friendship.
When life gets busy or stressful, my first reaction is to cancel and retreat. I don’t have many things I can cancel — can’t cancel work or parenting, so I’m inclined to cancel the “non essential” things like a workout or an evening with a friend in order to get a little breathing room. But, like we all know, those little “non essential” things are actually pretty essential to your overall happiness. Thankfully, we have an unspoken, nay, spoken rule within our book club: You don’t cancel on book club. Note: We did make one exception when one member literally gave birth the morning of our planned book club brunch.
Here are some of our tips and tricks that have helped us navigate and flex our book club to keep it sustainable:
Yearly book list. We pick our books for a whole year. With our group of four women, that means we each pick three books. We randomize the list and work through, one book per month. Each of our group members has different taste in books; I love how it expands my reading genres, and I end up loving (okay, at least finishing) most books I would never have picked up (such as Astrophysics for People in a Hurry or Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle). Before book club, I found myself abandoning books partway through; now I am happy to report that I have a very high success rate of finishing books. It’s important to note that we do make adjustments as needed; such as scheduling a quick, easy read for the month someone has a baby, or only light-hearted books for the spring of 2020…
Monthly scheduling. We (almost) always schedule our next book club while wrapping up our book club meeting. With varying work and family schedules, we’ve had to be flexible over the years. Before kids, we could just meet whenever, where ever (remember that?!). For a while, 8 pm worked well so that we could put babies to bed and then meet up for an hour or two. We’ve done weekend brunch. We’ve done 2 pm Sunday during naptime. Our group of four works well – I think large groups aren’t as intimate, don’t command the same level of commitment from each member, and can make scheduling difficult.
Changing locations. Before we all had children, we took turns hosting book club at our homes. This is fun but requires one to clean the house and possibly prepare food, so we quickly discovered it is more fun to go somewhere where they serve you food and you don’t have to cook or do dishes. We like to try new restaurants, bars, or breweries. We rotate picking convenient locations for each member. We sometimes choose baby friendly establishments, as there is high likelihood that an infant is tagging along for the ride. We allow tiny ones to temporarily join book club, but in general have a strict “no toddlers” rule for book club (for obvious reasons). For now, we meet via Zoom while we’re all staying #saferathome. While this is a wonderful substitution and keeps us reading and connected, we are all longing for a book club reunion someday.
Flexible reading styles. I’ve done it all. Audio books for a long commute. A kindle for reading in the dark while nursing a baby. I love the kindle app for my phone, so I can read anywhere, anytime instead of scrolling through social media. Lately, I’ve been reading paper books to model reading for my kids.
Actually talk about the book. At least a little. We don’t do anything crazy here, but we do take time to discuss the book. What we liked, disliked. We review the plot, the twists, which characters we liked, disliked. Was it believable? What about the writing style? Sometimes we google book discussion questions for ideas.
Make it a priority. Life as a mom is busy, we all know that. My friends and I know that we are spending precious free time reading and also making family arrangements in order to hang out. This is not taken lightly!
Book club is a monthly reminder of being a friend and a reader; reading is a daily activity that brings me happiness. It’s a win-win. Book club has sustained and strengthened our friendship during these early motherhood years and that is truly priceless. So, dear reader, I urge you to start a book club! Send this article to a few friends and go for it! I promise you won’t regret it. Plus, there’s wine.