Although reading is considered a solitary pursuit, talking about books can create community and connection between people.
Book communities online and on social media are hubs of active discussions and book recommendations. The rise of Booktok might make you think that the majority of this discussion has moved away from in-person discussion, but local in-person book clubs remain popular. Active clubs can be found in Vancouver’s libraries, or even nearer to home, in the Wesbrook and Old Barn Book Clubs.
Both of these local book clubs provide a gathering place for community members, bringing readers together to share diverse views, knowledge, and culture. They can also provide inspiration for people who want to read more widely, but don’t know where to start.
Discussing the array of emotions and messages in books also gives space for club members to see how our life experiences have formed perspectives, an outlook on life, and how those can differ from one another.
Alice Bradley, the coordinator of the Wesbrook Book Club, says she believes in fostering a “kind, respectful, and non-judgemental atmosphere where members express their candid opinions.”
I am the coordinator of the Old Barn Book club. Founded in 2022, its goal is to gather people from different generations in the UNA community to facilitate meaningful discussions that are enriched with life experiences and a variety of perspectives.
For me, book clubs not only foster relationships within the community, but also enhance my understanding of books, characters, and their authors. Sometimes an author’s biography, and thus understanding their lives, helps us understand their motives for engaging in certain narratives. Book clubs provide an opportunity to learn more about authors and their context, as well as allowing for discussion and sharing of views about the work.
Alice Wu, the instructor of the Wesbrook Book Club says, “some take away different themes and messages from the same book”. She says her life has been enriched by her book club experience.
For those who have wandered around a bookstore, hesitating which title to choose among the myriad of books, or have hoped to engage in discussions to analyse or understand the plot, or even those who are just curious about reading, book clubs might offer a place to enrich their reading experience.
For both book clubs here in the university neighbourhoods, book selections are announced at the beginning of each term, and discussions are hosted once a month at both Wesbrook and Old Barn Community Centres.
SAIGE PARK IS PURSUING HER BACHELOR’S IN PHARMACEUTICAL SCIENCES AT UBC.