I’m a reader—I always have been. I grew up thoroughly entrenched in dork-land, not stirring up trouble in standard pre-teen fashion but instead pissing off my parents by staying up into all hours of the night with a flashlight under the covers.
I read every Babysitters Club, every Sweet Valley High and every other fluffy teenage drama. The only books I avoided were the ones inflicted upon me by my teachers. The idea of reading a book torturously slowly, chapter by chapter, and discussing it to death made me want to snag a copy of the Cliffs Notes as quickly as possible and space out during class.
In college, the endless stream of political science textbooks and French lit didn't leave any time for pleasure reading, and once I graduated, reading on my morning commute wasn't too successful, given the bumpy and overcrowded nature of the 156 bus. As a recent grad in a new city, I was looking for new friends and new book recommendations, and so, the book club was born.
It started with four girls (at the time, the only girls in Chicago that I knew) schmoozing about Eat Pray Love at a delicious Thai and sushi dinner at the Indie Cafe in January of 2008. I was the only one who actually finished the book; Abby was half-way through India, Mara got bored before the end of Italy and Tara never bought the book. Somehow the conversation drifted from the book of the month to French Women Don't Get Fat to the pros and cons of raw diets to the latest gossip about the boys in our lives.
Several bottles of wine and a shockingly loud pop of a champagne bottle later, we had not gotten very deep into the book (or into it at all—can't ruin the ending for...everyone), but we were fairly drunk and enthused to do it again.
Months and months (well, years…) later, we have grown from four to 20 on the monthly invitation list, and we’ve said farewell to members who have moved away. We’ve welcomed fresh transplants to the city and made new friends with some locals. We’ve held potlucks, treated ourselves to dinner and gone on field trips.
The book club has tackled dozens of books—and of course following true book club fashion, we’ve never really discussed any of them in depth. We've bonded over our failed attempts to critique our literary picks over nearly one hundred bottles of wine. We've held after-book-club-parties at bars all across Chicago, and inflicted our silliness upon anyone who would listen to our recurring proclamation: "We're the book club!" (The conversation typically continued as follows: "Really? What book did you read?" "Um, Rachel - what book was it again?" or "I can't remember what it's called - I haven't finished it yet...")
Every fall, we now take turns offering up book suggestions for the year ahead, and I tend to read almost all of them—not just the 12 we pick for the next 12 months—and as a nerd at heart, I'm usually a book or two ahead of schedule (thank you Kindle!). Luckily, at least a couple other girls have joined who tend to finish the book fairly regularly, but still, the books are rarely discussed.
Regardless, book club has allowed me to reenter the literary world, while facilitating the formation and strengthening of some special friendships along the way.