August 18, 2022

Book clubs are more popular than ever, organizers say

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With the advent of social media, older institutions like book clubs were considered a thing of the past. It turns out that many Southern Tier residents love them more than ever.

For many local book club members, the reason they still attend is simple: discussing an interesting topic in person is better and more engaging than doing it online.

“I think people always like conversation; for me, I don’t think there’s enough face-to-face conversation,” said Laurel Hester, Ithaca book club organizer. “It’s good to be online, but it’s better to be in real time to exchange ideas with someone else, and it allows you to meet new people who share an interest face to face.”

Since the book club has about 100 members and a cap of 10 people per meeting, Hester said members can RSVP for any book talks they want to attend. Currently, Ithaca Book Club is reading Trevor Noah’s autobiographical comedy book “Born a Crime.” “, although Hester said the club alternates between fiction and non-fiction books.

“The goal is to expose us to books we might not have read,” said Claudia Radin, coordinator of Horseheads Lit Lovers Book Club. “We often read books that I would never have read otherwise, and that’s one of the things that I really like about it.

The Horseheads group has about 10 members who meet monthly, and Radin said that each month one member of the group takes on the task of presenting a brief biography of the author and then providing discussion questions for the book.

“There’s such variety in what we do,” Radin said. “The key is to always choose a quality book so that there is always something to discuss. The book club is for people who like to discuss and debate and who respect the opinions of others; we never want anyone belittle another person’s opinion.”

The group is currently reading Stephen King’s “The Stand,” and Radin said the Lit Lovers Book Club intentionally read a variety of books to keep the discussions lively.

“Everyone is looking for the next good book, and it’s a way to find out what other people are reading,” said Sherry Kowalski, Broome County Library Information Services Manager and organizer of two book clubs. through the library. clubs also take you out of your comfort zone as a player. Most people stick to a genre or two, but that way you get a lot of variety and get out of your comfort zone, and then you might decide you really like that genre.

Kowalski said book clubs are still popular today because the internet and social media still can’t replicate in-person meetings.

“Talking to someone in person is so different,” Kowalski said. “There’s so much happening through social media that I think it’s important for people to actually interact with each other instead of doing it all online.”

She added that technology can also isolate people, which makes book clubs more important than ever in many ways. One of the things that can make for a good discussion, however, is having a book that people have strong feelings for, both positive and negative.

“I’ve also found that sometimes the best books don’t always lead to the best conversations, but book conversations you might not like that much can be much better,” Hester said. “And by interacting and discussing, you end up getting a lot more out of the book than when you first read it or just read it on your own.”

Hester said reading a book with a group of people with diverse life experiences can also make books more interesting because they bring in attitudes and opinions from perspectives you might not have thought of.

“Not everyone has to like the book for it to be a good reunion,” Kowalski said.

The biggest enemy of book clubs isn’t social media; it’s time, organizers said. It’s not uncommon for new members to come and go from groups, not out of disinterest, but out of lack of time. To combat this problem, Hester said she has no problem if book club members want to listen to audiobooks instead of reading them.

“Audiobooks are great for long trips, or for chores, or while walking. I’ve had other people in the reading group listen to books while running errands and working out,” said Hester said.

Even younger generations participate in book clubs for the same reasons as older generations. Josh Rosenthal, a junior at Binghamton University, is the president of the University’s Comic Book Club. For students only, Rosenthal said students join the club for the same reasons as adults.

“It’s a social thing, a way to stay engaged,” Rosenthal said.