Cheers to the Weekend 2.22.19
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Around the web

An excellent list of classics to read this weekend. Many new-to-me titles I’m picking up at the library today!

This article explores the ability to artificially recreate, or even finish, art and literary works already done or started by the respective artists. This is fascinating since I’m well into the middle of this novel!

This is a fascinating interview on the new book Last Boat Out Of Shanghai, and the author’s family’s escape from China.

Out-of-print books by women to add to your treasure hunting list!

The Center for Fiction is making a come back, and includes so many concepts of the literary community I hadn’t though of before.

Instagram

This new bookstagrammer has a bright feed that is pulling us out of our winter blues.

Fellow PNW fantasy reader, we’re digging Mia’s mix of indoor and outdoor literary vibes.

Rhea has beautiful classics and thoughtful, often insightful captions we enjoy.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - Moving is all consuming, and I’m just dreaming of diving back into my current reads: The Dream Thieves, A Brightness Long Ago, and Hey, Kiddo.

Rikki - American Marriage is consuming my time at the moment, along with finishing The Idiot, I hope this weekend!

Abrams Dinner Party Meets My Current Reads
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We have been accepted into the Abrams Dinner Party line up for fall and spring 2018-2019. We are pretty excited to get to extend our skills a bit further into something a little different from our usual dinner parties. With a variety of cookbooks sent to us from Abrams books, we get to explore an endless amount of new recipes and put them into action.

*We were sent this book in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

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To keep things simple and fun, we amped up our usual weeknight dinner with a cauliflower pepperoni pizza from the marvelous cookbook, Cali’flour Kitchen by Amy Lacey. There are an abundance of fun recipes to transfer any previously loved grain dish into a cauliflower one. It can sound a little weird, but it’s really fun to try. I’m not a full convert here, but there are some great new ways to use cauliflower that I’m looking forward to exploring.

In all honesty, the one thing I was looking forward to the most in this cookbook, was different ways to cook cauliflower as a vegetable. I once found this vegetarian cookbook that showed a wide range of unique and fun ways to cook with your average vegetables, and I had that in mind when opening this cookbook. This book, however, is really for those who need to cut carbs, eat leaner, are gluten intolerant, or just want to try something different.

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I made this pizza crust from a whole cauliflower, nothing frozen or pre-packaged. I once tried a frozen cauliflower crust pizza from the store, and I did not like it. I went into this pretty skeptical, but this pizza turned out pretty good. I do recommend eating it fresh, this isn’t meant to be leftovers. I added 1 tsp of salt and a dash of garlic powder to the crust before the first bake, and that added a depth of flavor that was enjoyable. Also, don’t expect this to be like real pizza. It does have the flavors since you’re using all the same toppings, but the crust is, well, made from cauliflower, not flour.

I had a great time sitting down with a hard cider, this tasty pizza, and my currents reads, The Idiot and If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller!

Thanks so much Abrams for having us as members for the dinner parties, we’re having so much fun already and look forward to the next one! Be sure to check out the first one we did!

Cheers to the Weekend 2.15.19
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Around the web

We’re in love with Obvious State’s latest blind date release. This is the theme of the year! Did you grab their new postcards too, we love the Bibliophilia set they have too!

Thanks for this reminder that it’s okay to not give into the hype and enjoy a book for a great date night!

This great list of female friendships is great anytime of year! This one is excellent too!

To help spice up your book club, consider one of these novels. I’ve actually read quite a few!

It’s fun to look back at the last few years trends of book tracking. What’s your method?

This novel is taking off, and for good reason! Grab one up with us!

Instagram

Mixing things up with a super cute lifestyle feed with Mackenzie. *Insert book* for the perfect lifestyle inspiration.

Great color and light can go a long way, plus some fun books and selfies!

Kind of in love with Meagen’s mood, books, and hair.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - I just finished The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle for book club (spoiler alert: I didn’t love it) and am deciding what to read next!

Rikki - Still reading through If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, The Idiot, and I recently started A Spark of Light. So, I’m on a pretty good streak!

Cheers to the Weekend 2.8.19
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We have so much real life happening right now that in all honesty, there just isn’t as much reading happening as we’d prefer. That’s how it tends to go sometimes, but we know that in time, we’ll get back to our beloved pages. Lately, I’ve been making time to get back into my yoga practice, more herbal teas, and general self-care overall. Below you’ll find a few things that have helped along the way. Do you have any self care resources you love? We’d love to hear about it, leave a comment below! Happy weekend, friends!

Around the web

This is beyond relatable and truly excellent! “The world is full of tips for looking after our bodies, but what about our minds?

This is such an interesting round up of books to guide you to self-care. Have you read any?

These 10 tips are what you’d expect to see, and I’m always grateful for the reminder.

Does gifting yourself with new workout gear motivate you? Sometimes, I’m not sure, but I do have my eye on this new hoodie, and okay, this bag too!

Here are some great diverse romance novels for fun, easy reading. Bookish brain candy?

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s list of audiobooks to get you through that cleaning frenzy is excellent!

I’m picking up this book asap after reading this article titled, Selfless Girls Will Win Us the War.

Instagram

Carla has a warm, fun, and creative feed to keep you inspired.

Excellent book choices who’s variety runs the gamut, and also, Suzie’s the cutest.

We love Rachel’s simple literary lifestyle vibe, with plenty of bookish insight.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - Reading? What reading? Honestly this week has been so busy as we prepare to sell our house, I haven’t even glanced at a book. Hopefully next week calms down!

Rikki - I’ve recently started The Idiot by Elif Batuman, so far, so good! I’ll also be wrapping up a quick non fic read of Days of Reading by Proust.

Interview With A Book Publicist | Ellen Whitfield
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We got to chat with our friend Ellen Whitfield (@spoilerkween) about her job as a book publicist. She shares what a book publicist looks for in an instagram account to work with, the work that goes on behind the scenes, pet peeves, what she wishes bloggers and instagrammers knew, how she got into this field, and what it’s like working with authors. She also has great taste in books, has hilarious IG stories, and is all around a wonderful human to talk to! Without further ado…

**Our newsletter subscribers get early access to these interviews! Feel free to sign up here***

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Q: What's your official job title? 

A: Simply put, I’m a book publicist.


How did you start working in this field?

 I was going back to my job at a newspaper after my maternity leave was over, and realized that working nights and weekends wasn't going to work with having a small child, so I started looking for other jobs. I've always loved to read and wanted to have a job involving books, and my husband reached out to a friend who he knew worked "with books." It happened to be perfect timing as they were looking for someone to fill an open position -- I jumped in not knowing too much about what a publicist does, but luckily it was a perfect fit for me!

What does your typical work day look like? 

I usually respond to emails that have come in while I've been away for the first couple hours of my day -- that mostly consists of answering client questions, coordinating interviews and the like, recording new information that's come in for campaigns and working with contacts to set up publicity and events. Then I focus on one campaign for a while, writing pitches and press kits, contacting outlets for reviews or Q&As, gathering info, makings calls, anything like that. When I've finished with the tasks I need to get done for that campaign, I move to another.

What do you love most/hate most about your job?

More like pet peeves or stresses instead of hates, but as you saw, this job kind of fell into my lap, and I feel so lucky because I know that not everyone can say they love what they do, but I really can. I think being a publicist and having to be nice has translated into my daily life and made me a kinder and more compassionate person (I hope). And most of the people I work with are just the coolest. I work with books all day -- what's not to like?! But the biggest part that stresses me out is a lot of times, in the very beginning of the campaign, it feels like you're waiting for all this potential coverage to start to come through, and I always get nervous it won't because I want to get the word out about my amazing authors and the books they've worked so hard on. But usually as the launch date gets closer, coverage picks up and things start to fall into place.

How do you find Instagram accounts to work with/what do you look for in an account? 

I think a lot about what books are similar to the book I'm pitching, and try to find accounts that have liked those books so I make sure I'm pitching to the right audience. I also make notes as I'm scrolling through my feed -- "Oh Michaela likes fairy tale retellings, I bet she'd like Slipper!" etc. We try to find accounts that are current and will be enthusiastic about a book they like! We of course don't expect every person to like every book we send them, but I may shy away from accounts that seem unnecessarily harsh.

What do you wish bookstagrammers knew about your job? 

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We do so much research into choosing what books to pitch to which bloggers and bookstagrammers! We try not to send pitches to people who we don't think would be a good fit for certain books, because we don't want to bug y'all. Oh, and ghosting us is also a pet peeve -- if you say you'd love to take a look at the book and then just disappear when you get it, that's a bummer (but luckily that doesn't happen a lot!).

What's the best thing about working with authors?

Honestly I'd never have the courage to write a book and put it out there for the world to see, so I'm always impressed by authors in general. Most of mine are just really great people that are a lot of fun to hang out with. They trust us to help tell the world about their "babies," and I couldn't be more honored.


What’s your favorite book?

I'll go with the book I return to again and again in all stages of life -- James Herriot's, All Creatures Great and Small. I read them as a small child and fell in love with the English countryside and the simple vet stories about kind people and funny animals. It always manages to make me happy.

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS FOR ELLEN?

Cheers to the Weekend 2.1.19
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Michaela is fully immersed into the house buying and selling process, so we’re stealing away every spare minute to get together, catch up, and talk books! We’re exploring new brunch spots around town and talking about our rather large stack of combined current reads. The rest of our weekends include prepping a house for the move, having dinner with friends, and hopefully some down time for reading! What are you up to?!

Around the web

I love this article with Rebecca Makkai on Lisa Gornick’s new novel.

So many amazing books won awards; two that I’ve read, and numerous waiting on my shelves. Here’s the interview, too!

We’re suckers for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly round ups of ‘things I learned in…’

A bookstore tour of Ireland?! Yes, please!!!

I enjoyed this interesting article exploring 'Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read’. I bet you remember where you were when you read it, though!

Instagram

I love seeing readers who explore reading in multiple languages and what books are from those regions specifically. Cărțile spans an interesting variety of novels, many of which I love!

So many good literary lifestyle vibes and a flawlessly cohesive feed.

The ultimate adventurous bookish life! Mariah has us wanting to hop on a plane to anywhere, books in bag.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - I’m reading A Brightness Long Ago (thank you Berkley Pub for the complimentary early copy), and I’m so glad to have a new Guy Gavriel Kay novel in my hands!

Rikki - I’m so happy to be onto a new month of reading! I’ve excitedly began Calvino’s, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, along with We Were the Mulvaney’s.

Wrap Up | January 2019
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

Michaela

The Hating Game | Sally Thorne- I wanted to like this more than I did. I read it for a quick brain break, and while I enjoyed the tone, the whole book just almost worked over and over again. The entire thing felt...loose. Plot points and themes felt incomplete (yes, I realize this is fluff, BUT STILL) as if the author knew what she was after, but couldn’t quite get it across. An example would be how the novel tries to deal with objectification, if you’ve read it. The story was cute enough, though painfully (so painfully) predictable.

The Descendants | Kaui Hart Hemmings- This gets five stars from me, but I fully acknowledge that I am not objective about this book. The movie holds a special place in my heart for a lot of personal reasons, and though it took me a long time to read the book, I’m really glad I did. I love the tone, the realness, the flawed characters, and especially the writing. This just hit the spot for me personally. I’m also glad that the movie really stayed quite true to the book!

I Am Jennie | Jennie Ketcham- This was our IRL book club’s pick for the month. I thought the story was raw and interesting, but needed a stronger editorial hand. The middle 200 pages just felt like a whirl of characters and disjointed events coming at you at lightning speed, with almost no service to the narrative. That whole section also felt kind of detached, and lost the structure and emotional investment that I had enjoyed in the beginning. The writing here isn’t terrible, though it is amateurish, but then again it was written to share her story, not to be indicted into the literary cannon. Overall, an interesting peek into an experience very different from my own, but I would really love to see her write this now (it was published in 2012) with a little more distance from the events, because I think it would be easier to distill the important parts of this memoir for a higher impact.

The Raven Boys | Maggie Steifvater- I listened to this one on audio, and it was a total win for me. I have a soft spot for YA fantasy and this one did not disappoint. I’m completely in love with the characters, the story was well paced, atmospheric, and had enough mystery to keep the tension high enough to keep me listening for as long as I possibly could. I LOVED the narrator, too. I even tried to read it in print and switched back to audio because I enjoyed him so much. I’ll definitely continue this series, it’s shaping up to be a solid one.

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Rikki

Stoner | John Williams - I’ve needed to take some time reflecting on this novel before I could formulate a worthy review. This novel is hailed as one of the greatest in American Literature. Well, yes, it’s technically perfect. But the story, which is what is said to be so profound, falls a little wayside for me. Having just finished my Master’s in English Studies, you can imagine that I did love the atmosphere of university life and reading about his love of literature. I can relate, my friend. But, the characters that cause so much strife for Stoner felt forced and unfinished. His neurotic, crazy wife, who ruins his relationship with his daughter…the handicap professor who wants to ruin his career — what and why?! I also have little to no patience for passive characters with no backbone, and while there were redeeming moments, I hated that about Stoner’s character. I was rooting for him though and I’m glad I’ve read this novel. I also picked up his other, Butcher’s Crossing, and look forward to that later in the year.

Between Shades of Gray | Ruta Sepetys - What an incredibly unexplored piece of history. The author’s note at the end, was my favorite piece, where she tells how this story was kept undisclosed until the early ‘90s when the Soviet Union collapsed. And slowly, the stories began to unfold and find light. While a truly heartbreaking account of what it was like for Lithuanians during Stalin’s reign of terror and the overlap of WW2, I appreciated the history lesson, the fictional account of a Lithuanian family, and the redemption and fight to live that takes you through the story. I’m looking forward to her other novel Salt to the Sea.

The Great Alone | Kristin Hannah - This was my first Hannah novel, and it delivered. An emotionally compelling page-turner, that makes your heart ache as the story unfolds through the backwoods of Alaska. There is so much devastation that relentlessly piled up, it was hard to catch my breath, but made me believe in the strength, resilience, and love of the human spirit. The story did lay out in a way one might expect, with some cliche to guide you through, but if you’re looking for an easy prose and something to bring out emotion and keep you up reading, this is a worthwhile book.

Salt to the Sea | Ruta Sepetys - Apparently, this is my month of angst and heartbreak. I didn’t find this story to be as difficult throughout as Between Shades of Gray (from an overall scope of the storyline), but the end ripped my heart out. Another page-turning novel of historical fiction, accounting for the most horrific and heartbreaking maritime disaster in history. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this book. Sepetys does an impeccable job at crafting a voice and story for characters who truly had none, who were lost to the sea and the war.

Lolita | Vladimir Nabokov - For months this book has been following me, everyone I spoke to that has read it, loved it. The urge became unbearable, and I finally broke down and opened the book. There’s no denying the difficulty in reading a novel about a man who is obsessed with a child. But Nabakov is an undeniably gifted man, whose most famous novel contains a prose unlike anything I’ve ever read before. “It’s the writing,” is what I kept being told, and now I know… it’s the writing. There were really only a few truly cringeworthy parts that had me questioning if I wanted to continue reading this, and I’m glad I powered through, because there is so much more involved than a little discomfort from the story. I’m really looking forward to trying his others books too; I hear Mary is excellent.

Seabiscuit | Laura Hillenbrand - Well, it’s not Unbroken, that’s for sure. Unbroken is one of my top five favorites of all time, and I’ve been anxious to read this book, especially with it being her only other in existence. Hillenbrand is a meticulous researcher and writer, there’s no denying that even a little. I also thought this was a worthy and excellent novel, one that I’m so glad is told. Yet, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped, but am glad I did finally read it.

What was the best book YOU read this month??

Cheers to the Weekend 1.25.19
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It’s the last week of January, and we are grateful to be looking ahead towards spring! January is the hardest month for us both, because the weather tends to be pretty cold and wet, and life usually slows way down. Excited for a February full of birthdays, big changes, warmer temperatures, and later sunsets. This weekend we’re looking forward to our usually breakfast date, some quality caffeine, and book talk. What are you guys up to?

Around the web

You guys know how much I love a good graphic memoir, and this is a great list! I immediately put a few of these on hold at the library, I won’t lie.

Interested in starting a book club? Need help restructuring the one you already run? Just curious about what it’s like to be a book club organizer? Check out this interview.

Corporate censorship is something I’ve though a lot about (and a big reason I started @theindiebiblio to support indie presses) and this article does a great job examining it’s threat to publishing.

2019 is bringing us some exciting debut novels! We’ve heard some great buzz already about a couple on the list!

Instagram

Kat’s feed is honestly breathtaking, striking the perfect balance between simple and artistic, and plus she has flawless taste in books.

Emily has lovely, clean literary lifestyle vibes, great reads, and just a lovely style. We could look at her feed all day!

Need to feel like you’re off on a bookish adventure with a great friend? Erika’s feed is where you want to be.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - Once again I am completely all over the place, but I am loving The Raven Boys on audio so, so much and currently mood reading all over the place

Rikki - I finished Salt to the Sea recently, so I’ll be wrapping up Seabiscuit and Lolita this week!

Cheers to the Weekend 1.18.19
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

Around the Web

We are mourning this well loved poet who will be immensely missed.

The best historical fiction books to listen to. There goes my TBR…

An Iranian family saga that’s sweeping the literary world.

Want a different type of book recommendation from a well-known author? Min Jin Lee has you covered.

If you’re a serious planner when it comes to books, this post is likely to make your day.

This is a bit lengthy, although timely with #bookstagram’s latest outcry. One man’s take on “There is no diverse book.” Thoughts?

Instagram

Lovely books, coffee shops, and lifestyle from Laur’s beautiful side of the world.

The greatest books and adventure to be found with this Londoner.

Incredible use of light and shadow and the familiar desire to want to read everything.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - Burial Rites and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao have my full attention this weekend and I could not be happier about it.

Rikki - I’ve started The Great Alone and I’m really loving it. And of course, I’m still happily powering through Seabiscuit and Lolita.

Interview With A Book Club Organizer | Sari Pabst
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Sari Pabst is the book club organizing extraordinaire and fearless leader behind the book club we attend locally. She has over 8 years of experience organizing various book clubs, and was kind enough to sit down with us to talk about what it’s like running large book clubs for so long (she’s been running our current one for over 3 years!). She shares what works, what doesn’t, what makes for good discussion, book club rules and structure, venue pitfalls, guiding philosophies, book club organizer pet peeves, and advice for anyone who wants to start their own club, or improve the one they already have!


Q: What made you want to start a book club?

A: I found that as an adult it’s really hard to make friends. When I started going to book club, I had just had my baby, and went from working full-time to being a stay at home mom with no other stay-at-home mom friends. So, I joined a book club near my home. They were really great, and after a couple months, the woman organizing it asked me to take over for a while. When she moved to another city, I ended up fully taking over organizing it.

How did you find a venue?

When I was in our previous town, I just picked a coffeehouse with a big table. It wasn’t great though, honestly. You have to account for the fact that anything with coffee is going to have coffee grinders, so sometimes you’d have to yell. And then a lot of the books we read are adult material, so you’re sitting in the middle of, like, Panera Bread, apologizing to the moms with their kids at the next table. We actually read Lolita, and there was a 9 year old girl at the table behind us. So there we are having this big, graphic conversation with sexually provocative things involving children, and it just made it hard.

When I moved down to Tacoma, one of the things I did was to just go and check places out. I knew I wanted to move it to a bar, because I wanted it to be an “over 21” venue. Not because I think people under 21 don’t have anything valuable to add or to say, but because, I have two kids— whom I love, they’re wonderful—but if I’m going out for a night to have adult time, I don’t want to bring my children, and I don’t want other people to bring theirs either. I don’t want anyone to have to censor what they’re saying or how they’re feeling because there’s a 7 year old in the room. So for me, I was very specific in wanting an age limit on not just our book club, but on who could be in our immediate area.

Plus, moving into a location that was adults only, and to a time that was a little later in the evening made it so that a diverse amount of people could come, because now people could come after work. It’s appealing to come chill and have a drink with friends; it just makes for a much more casual environment. Then I just picked a space like that, one that would let me borrow a room once a month. They’re wonderful, they always let me have the room, and always make sure other patrons are clear from the space if we need it. It’s our home now

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How did you pick a day and time?

We have a core group of people who have hung in there with me for years and years, so I picked a day that worked for them as well as with my schedule and my co-organizer’s schedule, because it was important to me that the core group could have what they wanted. As long as it’s on the same day of the week, most people’s schedules are pretty set, so we just picked what worked best and we’ve stuck with it.

Has keeping it 21+ affected the dynamic of the group?

We have a really interesting demographic. I’m in my mid-30’s, and we have a few people who are in their 40’s and 50’s, then we have a bunch of people who in their mid 30’s or 40’s who don’t come as regularly, and then we have a ton of people in their 20’s. It’s this really interesting range of people. There are months that I come and I’m the only person in the room who has children. So my perspective may be incredibly opposite than the person sitting across from me who just graduated from college, or the person who’s kids have already left home. I love when you get to see different perspectives, especially now that more men have started to come. Having it at our location, it’s gender neutral, and set at a time when professionals can come after work, or stay at home moms can come when their husbands get off work; it’s really opened us up to more interesting discussions.

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You have a pretty large group, right? How do you manage a group that size?

Yeah! We have almost 1,400 followers on Meetup and we regularly have about 20 people show up. I was really overwhelmed when I first moved it to Tacoma, because in our previous location, the largest group I’d had was maybe 17. It’s kind of a trendy thing now in our area to mix alcohol and books, but it definitely wasn’t when we started. I was a little bit overwhelmed, and my voice doesn’t really carry very well, so at first it was little bit of a free-for-all. One of the things that helped me the most was physically standing in front of the group to have command of the room. Which sounds weird, because I’m not actually somebody who likes having all the attention on her, but if I don’t it just becomes complete chaos, with different sections having different conversations and nobody really paying attention.

If I'm actually standing, it gives the room someone to focus on, so it’s almost like passing the baton when I call on somebody, and gives everyone a chance to be heard. Sometimes there will be a great dialogue, like two people will get really heated about a topic, and I’m not going to cut that off if they’re going back and forth. If someone raises their hand to interject, I can be like “hey guys, they’ve wanted to comment on your discussion for a minute, let’s hear what they have to say,” and that will bring it all back around.

What do you think keeps people coming back to this group?

I hope that it’s that we’re creating a fun, healthy environment for people to get to know each other!


Do you intentionally structure your discussions?

Depending on what the novel is, I look up discussion questions, see what’s been popular in other book clubs, but actually my favorite is when the author has given discussion questions in the back of the book or on their website. There are also questions I’ll ask every single time. The first thing I ask as we start is “who has read the book?” and sometimes it’s just one or two people, which is totally fine. The next question is always “who liked the book and who didn’t?” because I’m very aware that I usually have the opposite opinion of the group, and it gives everyone a chance to see where people stand. Plus, just knowing who felt the same as you and who felt the opposite of you is a discussion point. Like, well, what did you like about it?

Also, even if I really loved a book, I’m probably going to have to act like I hate it if everyone else loved it too, just so I can be that opposition. My job when I show up to book club is to make a discussion happen and to keep it going. Sometimes it’s really easy, but of course, sometimes it’s really hard. We’ve only ever had one book that had a discussion that lasted under an hour. 

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What was the worst discussion you’ve ever had?

Good Omens. We’ve done all kinds of books, and usually there’s some kind of hidden nugget you can pull on to really get everybody going and there was such satire, and such slapstick comedy in that book, but there wasn’t enough depth to have any feelings about it. Most of the group felt the same, and it was just really hard to create a discussion off of one-liners.


Why did you choose Meetup to advertise the group?

Mostly because that’s originally how I found the book club. Six years ago, members suggested we move it to Facebook, but what happened was we went from having 15-17 people come, to having maybe 6-8 people coming, because it just wasn’t getting out there. Also, it just lost something. I love when new people come and offer fresh perspectives, versus when it’s just the same people, you kind of already know what they’re going to say, and who’s going to like or not like the book. When I moved and re-started, I decided to put it back on Meetup because it seemed like the best way for us to get the most exposure, and I genuinely don’t mind paying for the service as long as people are showing up and they’re enjoying it.

As long as it continues to be something I look forward to every month and not something I have to do every month, I’ll keep doing it, because I really appreciate that I have this platform to invite people to come enjoy and discuss books. Also, I think a lot of people really underestimate how difficult it is to put yourself out there. Walking into a room of people full of people you don’t know, it’s scary and it’s hard-- I definitely remember how hard it was for me to walk into my first one. I used this club to make new friends and build community, because I didn’t have it, so I want everyone to feel comfortable walking in. I try to shake each new person’s hand and introduce myself, because I want people to feel welcome, and I do appreciate how hard it is just to walk in the door. 

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What is it about a book that makes it create a good discussion?

Controversy. And it doesn’t even have to be big controversy. One word I can say that will always set somebody off in the room is “sexuality”. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, but if I say that word the entire room is going to explode, and there are just little triggers like that. It could be the most tame book in the entire world, but as soon as somebody says a key word, all of a sudden it’s like a bomb went off. So you have to feel the book out, and see what that thing is going to be. Sometimes even just bringing up something I didn’t like will outrage somebody and spark a conversation.

How do you pick what your group will read?

Everyone in the room can bring whatever books they want to recommend, they just have to tell the room what it’s about, and it gets put on the list. We then let people vote for every book mentioned. The first time through, everyone can vote for any book on the list that they’re interested in, and if it’s unanimous, or there is a situation where one book got like 15 votes and the others only got a handful of votes, that’s our book. If two books are close, we do a second round of voting where you can only vote for one book. The reason I do it that way is because I want people to feel like it’s their book club too, instead of it being like “ugh, what is she going to make us read this month.”

I want to read what the group wants to read, and I get to read so many things that never would have been on my radar, so it’s really exciting for me too. Another thing that really worked for us, is that while we used to pick the book two months in advance so that people would have plenty of time to get it from the library or listen to is as an audiobook, we switched to just picking the book for the following month. I realized that people were fighting for the book that they want to read now, and by the time we were actually getting around to that book two months later, nobody actually cared about it any more.

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Do you have any other book club rules?

If you show up, whether you’ve read the book or not, we are going to talk about the end of the book, because it’s not fair that everybody read it and we can’t talk about a part of it because somebody didn’t finish it, even if that person is me.

Is there anything that you, as an organizer, would not have thought about as a member?

I get a lot of messages behind the scenes. One of the most frustrating things for me is when people don’t bother reading the actual event details on Meetup, because I try to make sure that when you click the event listing, all the information is there about what time we meet, where we’re meeting, how to find us…everything. People will inevitably private message me asking the same questions over and over again, and every single month having to answer the exact same questions when you’ve already posted the information, can be really frustrating. I try to be understanding and give a gracious reply, but it’s one of those things, that as a participant, I didn’t realize was so frustrating.

I also get messages from local authors who want us to do their book, as in have us all buy copies of the book. It’s not that I don’t want to support local authors, it’s that I’ve been working on this club for 8 years. It sounds like a really silly thing, but I’ve literally put 8 years of my life into these book clubs to be able to cultivate it to be the way it is, and I care a lot about it. So I get frustrated when I feel like somebody is trying to financially profit off of my hard work, especially when I go out of my way to make sure that there’s no financial hardship on my members. 

Is there any advice you have for people who want to start a book club?

I would say have an idea of what you want it to be. I know that sounds silly, like of course you want to read books, but decide how you want to run it and what you want it to feel like. If you come to my book club, be aware that I curse, and I drink, and I’m a really laid back person who tries to be really open and non-judgmental. It’s easy to take things personally if your space isn’t the right space for someone, but try not to.

Know what you want your group to look like and feel like, and be okay if its not the right fit for someone. I want my group to be people who enjoy being around each other and enjoy coming, and I don’t want someone to have to censor themselves because another person isn’t comfortable with swearing. Be aware of what your goals are, and be okay that you’re not everybody’s cup of tea. Just make sure you don’t take it personally, because I know it’s hard when you put your heart and soul into something, and it feels like a personal rejection, when in reality it’s just…he’s just not that into you.

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Do you have any other questions for Sari?