I have gotten a lot out of every book club I’ve ever been in. Most importantly, the opportunity to create genuine lasting friendships throughout the course of my life.
Over the past two decades, moving across state lines three different times, away from old friends and toward new ones, through multiple career and life changes – I have been fortunate to always find a way to get involved with fellow book lovers in some manner or another. I’ve been a member of several different book groups, but I had never heard of a virtual book club until just last year.
I don’t remember much about the first book club I was ever in. It was shortly after college and made up of a variety of friends from different walks of life. I recall reading a book about vampires by an Arkansas writer (Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris) that I never would have chosen to read on my own. Years later it became the premise of the show True Blood on HBO (which I totally binge watched!). This was my first experience with being in a book club. It was rather short-lived, but it left a lasting impression on me.
Things I love about book club:
- Reading is easily one of my favorite hobbies.
- The opportunity to connect with others on a regular basis is paramount to my own personal self-care.
- It provides me with more accountability with the books I want to read.
- Intelligent soulful conversations with a community of strong interesting women is my jam.
- Challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone by reading books I might not have considered otherwise is really important to me.
- Did someone say wine & snacks (now you’re speaking my love language!)
- It gives me a chance to catch a break in my usual routine. I get to just be ME for an evening, instead of “Mama.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the latter SOO much but it is very important for me to my embrace my identity outside of motherhood. It keeps me whole!
My second book club came about from sort of a chance encounter!
One morning shortly after we moved to Chicago, I approached a newer friend on the soccer field before a game and asked her if she liked to read. When she enthusiastically said yes and we learned that neither of us was currently in a book club, she agreed to start one with me!
Her next question was who else I had in mind to include in our new group – and since I really didn’t know anyone else yet, I said “I was hoping YOU might know some people!”
She laughed and luckily had a handful of really cool friends that ended up being interested. And so we started it! A few years later when we moved away, I was incredibly sad to leave our group of eclectic book-loving women that had evolved into some of my very dear friends.
After settling into our newest town, I got lucky to find my way into two new book clubs. Yes, you heard that right… TWO!!
I’d like to say I’m not sure how it happened that I ended up in 2 different groups, but if I’m being honest, it’s because I was desperate to connect and make friends in this new place. We moved here just over 2 years ago and most of my best friends live close to 1,000 miles away. So when the invites presented themselves, I jumped at both opportunities.
Ironically, my initiation into both of these came within weeks of the birth of my first son. This simultaneous launch into parenthood made it difficult to find the much-coveted time to cozy up with a good book. Much less to coordinate the occasion to get out of the house for monthly meetings.
Another baby in less than a year later and I confess – it quickly became overwhelming to try and keep up. My hands were just a little TOO full. What I once loved and found so enjoyable had now become more of a burden of stress for me.
This reality is no new rodeo to other mamas and busy women that I know. The busier and more chaotic life gets, the more difficult these things are to prioritize.
Here are a few things I struggled to balance between everyday life and book club:
- Finding a sitter or battling through my “mom-guilt” over leaving my husband to struggle with two babies’ bedtime routines
- Finding my way to the location of each different meeting (thank goodness for GPS)!
- Trying to remember to buy snacks and wine to share in advance. These days, you can TOTALLY forget me trying to BAKE anything!!
- Attempting to look somewhat presentable. Finding the time to sneak in a shower, get dressed in REAL clothes, and actually blow-dry my hair was no easy task.
- Hoping I’ve found the time to actually READ the book/feeling bad if I haven’t finished…
Why Start a Virtual Book club?
My youngest sister had starting doing “buddy reads” through her Bookstagram and it sounded really fun to me.
She had been using a group-chat to connect with others to talk about books they had all read. While I thought this was such a great concept, I have always been more of a face-to-face kind of person…
Last October I participated in an online class by Kelle Hampton called Ordinary Magic. It was life-changing in so many ways and really challenged me to pursue goals and dreams I had almost given up on (like starting this blog!) and helped me rekindle a creative spark within! It was also the first place I learned about ZOOM video conferencing. We used this virtual platform to connect and interact with women all over the world and it was amazing!
I decided if I could figure out how to use the program, I could certainly come up with a way to start a virtual book club from the comfort of my OWN home!
A chance to merge the most enjoyable parts of all my past book clubs into one place without having to leave the house? YES PLEASE! Connecting with friends from all over the map and getting to hang out/drink wine/talk books once a month? YES PLEASE!! And to get to do all that in my pjs, IN MY BED if I want! Sign me up!
That was the start of it and we have been going strong ever since. It has been everything I could have imagined and hoped for and the ease of participating is incredible. Last month my friend Joan even cooked dinner while she joined in on the call. No stress, no struggle, and no bra necessary!
Have you ever considered starting or participating in something like this before? Are you already in a book club that you love? I’d love to hear more about your experiences – it is always so interesting to hear how unique different groups are.