by Angela Noel
September 29, 2016
I recently attended a class on unconscious bias at work. The facilitator asked participants to think about this question: When was the last time you deliberately disrupted your routine? She gave us a few minutes to share our responses with others sitting nearby. Almost immediately, I knew my reply.
I intentionally disrupt myself in a variety of ways. I change my workout routine, seek new friends, try new restaurants, climb mountains, and learn computer code for fun. But some of my habits are harder to break than others. Though I am an avid reader, I have trouble picking up a new book. I walk the aisles of bookstores or libraries quickly becoming overwhelmed. How can I choose the perfect book to spend my time with when so many enticing choices exist?
When I do find a book I love (Jane Austen and anything with the words Harry and Potter in the title, for example), I read it over and over and over again. I open it up anywhere, to any page, in any chapter, and pour over the familiar words. Though soothing and familiar, I learn nothing new.
Dilemma: I need to learn new things in order to feel alive.
Enter book club. Almost nine years ago, I attended the inaugural meeting of what would be an important routine-disrupter in my life. My friend Kate founded it with the intention that the members of the club actually READ the books. The original group morphed over time. Kate dropped out after she had her baby. Others had demanding schedules, moved away, or just moved on. But as one member would leave, the remaining members would invite a new friend to take her place. Thus seeding the reading pool with fresh blood and new interests.
Every year, we pick books for the upcoming book reading cycle in an annual “business” meeting. We come prepared with two choices and an alternate. Armed with summaries and reviews, we sell the merits of our choices to the other members. A lively discussion, fueled by wine and good food, winnows the list to twelve candidates.
We seek an eclectic book list made up of various genres and tones. We look
for characters whose experiences vary from our own. We have read literary bestsellers, All the Lights We Cannot See and Fates and Furies. We’ve read critically acclaimed memoirs like Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for my Twelve-Year-Old Bully, and classics including Great Expectations and Dracula. This year we also enjoyed Seven Stones, a young adult novel by local author Julia Lee, published by RiverPlace Press in Brainerd, Minnesota. (Julia and her husband even drove to the city from their home a few hours south of Minneapolis to join us for food and a chat about her book.) Upcoming for discussion is another young adult narrative, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
We ask ourselves how did the book make us feel? How did the six hours (give or take) we spent engrossed in the author’s world impact our world?
When I told the three strangers gathered around my table at the training about my book club, I realized again how important my book club is to me. Not only do I truly love and respect each of the women in it, but I love that I’m not allowed to live in my routine because of them. I feel alive, in part, because of them.
Thank you current amazing book club: Lynn, Sarah, Sara, Julia, and Kelly. Thank you former and equally amazing members: Susan, Kate, Shelly, Karin, Lindsay, and Kristin.
For however long our lives touch, we will always have the shared experience of finding ourselves engulfed in story, unsure just who we might be on the other side.
Do you have a book club? How does it work? What does it mean to you?