Book clubs date back to the 1720s, but the popularity of these clubs has ebbed and flowed throughout the years. In 1996, Oprah Winfrey, in true Oprah-style, started a literary revolution. Time Entertainment called Oprah’s Book Club “the greatest force in publishing today.”
Oprah revived book clubs everywhere. Reading became a collective activity rather than a solo act.
At one point, Oprah’s Book Club had two million members — an impressive following. But book clubs that large aren’t the norm. Instead most book clubs include a handful of women who are searching for a way to bond.
In Saratoga Springs, one book club is doing just that.
“We are much more than a book club,” said club spokesperson Havilah Jones. “I feel like we are lifelong friends. The books we read together are only the nudge we need to come together in ways that are impossible to describe.”
In an interview with UtahValley360, Jones shared her thoughts about the power of book clubs. She also dishes out tips for getting started and selecting books.
Consider this your initiation into the sisterhood of the Saratoga Springs book club.
UV360: When did the club start?
HJ: Our first meeting was in June 2012.
UV360: How many members do you have?
HJ: Thirty-five total members, but we get about 10 to 15 people at the meetings consistently.
UV360: How often do you meet?
HJ: We meet the first Tuesday of every month.
UV360: What are you reading now?
HJ: “Tallgrass” by Sandra Dallas.
UV360: How do you select the books to read?
HJ: Every six months, anyone can suggest a book. We compile a list of all of the suggestions and then vote on our top six — those books are what we read the next six months.
UV360: What is your favorite book you have read in the club?
HJ: My favorite is “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. That book is a life-changer.
UV360: What are your typical meetings like?
HJ: There is a lot of talking at our meetings. Sometimes there are several different conversations going on all at once. Other times there is just one group discussion. We occasionally prepare discussion questions. Other times we just go where the conversation takes us. There’s always a yummy treat — Eliza’s sugar cookies and Judy’s chocolate cake are some of our favorites.
UV360: How do your meetings strengthen your relationship with the members?
HJ: After a night at book club, I always feel as if our discussions were exactly what I needed at that time. We share personal things with each other about our past and current situations. Through sharing, we find comfort, love and support.
UV360: Does the book club affect your perspective on life?
HJ: Book club is what keeps me grounded. I feel that no matter what life brings, I know I have a group of friends who are there for me. Everyone has something going on in life that is difficult. Whether it is dealing with a new baby, a set of two-year-old twins, a rough day at work, a family member who struggles with disability or infertility issues, we are always there for each other.
UV360: Does your book club do other things apart from reading?
HJ: When one of us needs a break from real life, we go on our Facebook page and announce that we need a girl’s night. We’ve gone to movies together and had movie nights where we enjoy all things Jane Austen. Some of us were even able to go to the launch party for a new book by Julianne Donaldson, one of our favorite authors.
UV360: What is your advice to people starting a book club?
HJ: One thing I always say to people in our book club is that it’s OK if they haven’t read the book. They should come to the meeting anyway. I believe the quickest and best way to make new, lasting friendships is to join a book club.
UV360: What is unique about your club?
HJ: We have many different types of people in our book club. Our love of reading is sometimes one of the only things we have in common, but that is enough. It is a relief to come together and not worry about how we look or what we say. We can come in our pj’s or with frazzled hair and we never feel judged.