By Katherine Schneider
Are you one of the five million or so Americans who’s in a book club? If not, read on! If you’ve hesitated because of access issues, that can be negotiated. If you’re already in one, continue reading for ideas for the next club you might join!
When I retired I looked for places where I could keep mentally active and stay social. I’ve been a part of five book clubs and love each of them dearly. To me, the interesting people you meet and the books you read that you wouldn’t have tried on your own are the two best parts of being in a book club. As an author, occasionally I’ve had the privilege of meeting with book clubs and some of them feature good food and drink as well as good discussions.
Whether you want to meet in-person, online or by phone, there’s a club for you. If you’re open to reading almost anything or only want to read one thing, like science fiction, there are clubs just waiting for you. There are mother-daughter book clubs, kids’ book clubs and dirty book clubs.
If you’re wondering how to find the right club for you, ask at your local bookstore, library or ask friends to tell you about their book clubs. Most clubs welcome new members to come and try the book club to see if it’s a good fit.
If you’re worried whether the books chosen will be available in accessible format, try the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library’s bimonthly book club by phone. Over fifty people belong although there’s usually about ten on the call. Accessible World’s book nook room also hosts book groups for discussion of historical, fiction and science fiction books among others and their discussions are archived for later listening. www.accessibleworld.org I get my books from Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library, Bookshare, www.bookshare.org, the local public library’s audio collection and occasionally from Overdrive through the public library.
Another way to make sure the club is accessible is to start your own. In the clubs I’ve helped start there’s an understanding that books chosen will be available in alternate formats (including large print and audio) and that we’ll meet where all can gather. Public spaces with good parking, low noise so discussions can be heard by all and a reservable space at no charge can sometimes be challenging to find. We’ve met at churches, bookstores, the public library and various coffee shops. For a while one group met at a floral store and we enjoyed the smell of spring flowers in the dead of winter.
The cast of characters at any given group can range from people who read everything by the author and do serious research about the book to folks who didn’t have time to read the book but come anyway. Some clubs have more heated discussions than others. I’ve only witnessed one discussion where a member walked out and slammed the door. Discussions are a good place to practice civility and listening skills. For those of us who are blind or low vision book discussions are a level playing field with the sighted as long as the book is available in alternate format. Sometimes if you’ve read the book in audio format, particularly if it was read by the author, you may have something extra to add because of listening to the author’s voice tone and emphasis.
So if sky diving scares your guide dog and mountain climbing sounds exhausting, try a book club! Reading opens new worlds and discussing books can add new friends and new views to your world.