It seems like I am reading all the time.
I constantly have a a pile of books queued up and waiting for me, and I always have at least one going. But last week I reviewed my reading log and discovered I’d only read 23 books so far this year. My goal is one a week; apparently I spend more time queuing than I do reading.
Around the same time, I posted an interview about this book on Facebook, along with a comment that I appreciated the interview’s honesty and open-handed spirit. “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis” is a pretty new book, and not a super-mainstream title, but within 20 minutes my sister-in-law and a friend from college who had read the book were sharing their views on its major themes, while a friend from high school chimed in that he had bought it that week, another friend from college remarked he’d also read and appreciated the interview, and a third friend who is a pastor and author gave it high marks along with the recommendation of another must-read (“White Trash” by Nancy Isenberg, for those interested).
This exchange taught me two things: first, I already knew I had literate, intelligent friends, but they are even sharper than I thought; and second, despite Two and Half Men’s nine Emmy awards and the existence of an entire channel dedicated to reruns of soap operas, there are still many people engaging with books and eager to talk about them.
I’ve toyed with the idea of starting an online book group via this blog for a while now. The realization of how little I’m actually reading (compared to my goals, anyway) suggested I could benefit from some intentionality and accountability, and the discovery of how much I enjoyed even a short discussion about an important book was the final push I needed. Our Book Club starts today!
Yes, that’s what it’s called. There are all kinds of
witty funny annoying book club names out there (“Read it and Reap”? Do they read farming books?) but this title sums it up.
“Jen, why don’t you want to watch General Hospital?”
“Sorry, I have to finish two more chapters to catch up with our book club.”
So here’s how it will work:
–We’ll read one book each month.
—I will choose the books we read, to start. I may not always be such a dictator but for the beginning I’ll decide.
—Some of the books will be related to faith-y stuff; others will not. We won’t do much fiction.
—Our first book will be Hillbilly Elegy.
—You can stop and start any time. Read with us the months that work for you; take a month off if you’re busy or just aren’t feeling that month’s book.
—We’ll talk about the book on this Facebook group.
—At the beginning of the month, in that FB group I’ll publish a reading schedule (number of pages or chapters a week) that, if followed, will get us through the book in our 30 or so days.
—Each Wednesday, beginning September 7, I will post a question or two that deals with the previous week’s reading.
—You are not required to respond to those questions, although I hope you will engage with the discussion.
—You can post your own questions and thoughts any time you want, and talk to each other.
—Maybe in the future we will have live chats or webinars, and maybe even get some authors to join our discussions. If there’s enough energy around it, I’ll create a second blog for our discussions. But let’s walk before we scamper.
—Sometimes I get copies of books from authors, and occasionally there will be giveaways, especially if it’s one I’ve read and can endorse. In fact, to kick this off I’m giving away a copy of the very excellent “Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish” by Chris Smith, reader extraordinaire, gifted writer, and the recommender of “White Trash” on my Facebook post. This new book is an excellent exploration of why every church should be prioritizing reading and discussion, and therefore a very appropriate book for a first giveaway. To win, join the Facebook group and commit to reading the September book with us! I’ll choose one name at random on 9/4 to receive the book.
I’ve been meaning to join a book club for years, but between work and church and kids and a dog who wants to go outside every nine minutes, it hasn’t happened. (Let’s be honest: sometimes I’m doing well to eat lunch.) Also there are so many people I’d like to talk about books with who don’t happen to live on the PA/NJ border, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. So it starts now, and it starts online, and it’s going to be fun – I hope you’ll join us.