The Joy of Sharing Books

What’s more enjoyable than reading a good book? For many people, the pleasure of reading is heightened when they have a chance to discuss the book with other people. That’s the whole idea of a book club—readers getting together to talk about books.

The precursors to book clubs were literary societies or lyceums, which arose in the 1800’s. These groups were primarily associated with women, and may have evolved as a rebellion against the concept that females didn’t have the intellect to analyze and discuss serious issues. Topics covered by these early groups included everything from sermons to poetry, philosophy and scientific discoveries.

The transition to discussing actual books occurred toward the end of the 19th century. As books gradually became more affordable and accessible, the popularity of book groups expanded. Then in the 1990’s, Oprah created her televised book club, and book clubs became a cultural phenomenon, connecting thousands of people of various ages, backgrounds and educational levels. For those who were too busy to take time for a face-to-face meeting, there were on-line book clubs.

For several years, the Laramie County Library sponsored a book club, which was open to anyone who wanted to attend. They met first in a coffee shop and then at Barnes and Noble. Several of the members wanted to form their own book clubs with their own friends, so the group eventually disbanded. With a growing number of book groups in the community, the library saw a need and developed book club kits.

Each book club kit contains ten books and a discussion guide, with everything organized in a large plastic tub. The kits check out for six weeks. While most of the books in the kits are fiction, there are a few non-fiction titles. The kits allow book groups to discuss books they might not have considered if they had to buy every book.

There are currently eighty-eight kits. They include everything from classics like Robert Penne Warren’s All The King’s Men and Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth to thrillers like The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter and All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. There are also kits featuring historical novels, memoirs, mysteries, dystopian fiction and humor books. The library literally has something for every reader.

New kits are added every year and older ones weeded. Suggestions for new book club kits are always welcome, but a number of things go into making a book work for a book club kit. The book has to have enough depth to make for meaningful discussions. It also usually has to be available in trade paperback, as this format makes buying ten copies more affordable. Trade paperbacks are also much lighter—a consideration when you’re lugging around a plastic container with ten copies.

For more information on the library’s book club kits, contact the 1st Floor Ask Here Desk. Books and more books. Sharing and discussion. What could be more fun?

~Mary G.