This past weekend was really lovely. I celebrated my one year anniversary of being back in California by going all over the Bay Area – seeing my dad’s show in Orinda, visiting friends in San Rafael, spending time in Pacifica for the gym and at Syche & Drew’s – and by doing some serious yard work with my parents. (I should probably be doing more of the latter, as I have fully enjoyed a year of living rent-free. Thanks Mom & Dad!)
As you can see in the screen shot above, I also spent part of Sunday in a Google Hangout with Book Club, Both Coasts. I love the moment that Joe caught with this picture, as we are all laughing so hard! (Does anyone remember this part of the convo? Was in reference to traveling in our minds with a Mouse God?)
This moment was an important part of my anniversary weekend, because last September I worried A LOT about my friendships – how would I integrate back into the lives of folks on the West Coast? And how would I maintain friendships with people now living far, far away?
Surprisingly, for … 97% of people it has gone well. And really, book club has helped a lot. Nothing I’m saying here is new – but I’m a big fan of book club, or any scheduled gathering of friends. It means you get to see people you care about at least once a month, in an organized fashion, and with book club, you get to have serious conversations while still open to tangents and gossip. I know, even when work is really crazy or friends are popping out babies, I will get to see these friends once a month at the bare minimum. So, go book club!
However, as I approach year 2 of my California life, I may be at a point of critical mass. How many book clubs is too many?
A brief history of Erin & Book Clubs:
I love to read. I always have. And as soon as I finished grad school, in the spring of 2010, I threw myself back into reading for pleasure. (It was quite the thrill after 7+ years of having the majority of my literary consumption dictated to me).
That spring and summer I devoured books, from the high brow to the low (Valley of the Dolls, anyone? So deliciously trashy!). And I also joined my first book club.I had tried to organize one a year and 1/2 before, but it was impossible while studying and stage managing. But, after Robert started this club with the beautiful and challenging Red Earth and Pouring Rain, it stuck, and was awesome.
It started with just Robert, Joe & I, and then branched out to include more lovely people until it hit the 7 that it stayed with until the end. We alternated who picked the book, and only had one rule – no one could have read the book before. And it was great! I read things I never would’ve otherwise, got to see a great group of people once a month, and we also made delicious food to correspond with each book.
(I talked a little bit about those early meetings on the blog before – about being embarrassed to read Eat, Pray, Love on the subway and about discovering a love of gin rickeys thanks to Thieves of Manhattan.)
In September 2011, after 16 months, 17 books and one failed Nanowrimo attempt, that book club dissolved, as we all went our separate ways. Kristin was already living in North Carolina, Robert & I moved back to California, Brandon & Jen were about to embark on a European adventure, and Holly & Joe stayed in New York to hold down the fort.
But, I had fallen in love with the book club. So, Robert & I started a book club out here, made up of wonderful Davis grads and it too has been great.
I have never been one to let a good thing stay simple, so I asked some of my high school friends if they too wanted to start a book club. They said yes, and then I had two book clubs. Then, this summer, the old New York gang decided we should do a virtual book club (referenced above). So… now I have three book clubs.
And that, I think may be too many. I am once again reading only what is “assigned,” though not by teachers, just my friends. I almost always love the books. (This past month we read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes and the Cove by Ron Rash. I would recommend all three). And I always love getting to see my friends, but I think this might be too much.
However, the top screen grab might change my mind. How amazingly cool is it that I get to read awesome books and laugh with wonderful friends, while separated by miles and miles? It makes the frantic reading, and scheduling all worth it.
I think things may figure themselves out – Book Club, Both Coasts has limited itself to only reading books under 300 pages (something that happened organically after reading two novellas in a row). And, the high school gals club may peter out on its own. There are only four of us, but in our first three meetings we have not been able to have all of us successfully meet. That one might become a restaurant club, or something that involves less scheduling.
To conclude, I highly recommend starting or joining a book club. It is a great way to connect with good friends, to strengthen friendships, and to read cool & different things. Don’t be too harsh on each other when someone doesn’t finish the book – it happens to everyone at least once. And be open for the conversation to go away from where you expect it to. I think, if you do, you’ll have a lot of fun.
For the record, the next round of Book Club Picks:
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrill
- Gone Girl
- and… undecided for BCBC. Maybe something by Salman Rushdie