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Booze, books and baked goods: what’s not to like about book clubs?


By Geraldine Carton
18th Mar 2018
Booze, books and baked goods: what’s not to like about book clubs?

What’s the first image that comes to mind when someone mentions the word “book club”? Odds are it’s a room of middle-aged women sitting in a circle, nursing cups of tea/ swirling glasses of wine, whilst exchanging the local gossip.

It’s time to rid your head of that cliché, because the tides have turned as far as book clubs are concerned. Although the treats, tea and wine might remain a constant feature, these gatherings are far from the gossip sessions of the past.

The book club is seeing a significant resurgence, and young women in particular are being proactive in starting their own clubs. And if you don’t want to start you own, you could join one led by celebrities such as Emma Watson and Reese Witherspoon, who are following Oprah’s 1996 idea of inviting fans to join their public book clubs. 

Researcher for Newstalk’s The Pat Kenny Show, Barbara Feeney (29) started up her own book club with friends four years ago and it’s still going strong today:

“I started the book club as a way to bring different friends together, to challenge us to read a wider range of material, and to read more often. Despite the obvious distraction of wine and cheese, we do actually talk about the book! In fact, even after the book club has wrapped up we often chat about the book on our whatsapp group.”

Katie Fanagan (28) is an English teacher in an all-girls secondary school in Dublin and says that starting a book club with a group of friends also helped her to finish books that might have otherwise fallen by the waste side. “Having a deadline to finish a book keeps you focused and more likely to set time aside for reading.”

She goes on to say that the literary get-together provides an opportunity for people to question their own perspectives, and consider those of others. Katie admits that she was initially worried that the book would be ignored and they would descend into girly chats, “but everyone gets so involved when discussing the book and it can create really heated debates.”

The turn of 2018 saw a huge surge in people putting “MUST READ MORE” at the top of their year’s resolution list. This comes after reports from research giant Neilsen, which found that over the last four years digital book sales have been experiencing a gradual decrease, while printed books have seen a rise in sales.

We asked about the ebook V hardback debate, Katie said the following:

“I bought a kindle and really tried my best to love it but as a lover of books I just can’t resist pages – it’s the smell that gets me! And the sense of accomplishment when you close a book upon finishing, there really is no better feeling.”

We couldn’t agree more. All-in-all this trend reflects a further move away from the “always on”, digitally-tethered lifestyle. It seems that all we want is to go back to the good old days; days when books were bounded and calories were not counted when the cake tin was passed around the room. That’s not so much to ask, is it?

Checklist for setting up your own book club:

  • Set up a WhatsApp group with everyone you want to join.
  • Pick a date with lots of advance notice (ideally make it something semi-regular, like the last Monday of every month).
  • Arrange for a different person to pick the next book at the end of each meeting.
  • Make sure the group are aware that the reading of the designated books is paramount, if they want a gossip session then they can attend the bridge club down the road.
  • Decide on snacks and beverages, and who’s bringing what. These are the making or breaking of any self-respecting book club, so make sure there’s an ample offering.