Evolving book clubs

In a story out of Bellingham, Wash., today (where I had my first job in journalism, by the way, at the Bellingham Herald) is a piece about the evolving nature of book clubs.

Here’s the link to the story, and here’s a sample:

Her book club, like so many, began with a simple formula: Gather a few friends, colleagues or neighbors; pick a book; read it; and get together over wine and cheese or popcorn and soda to discuss it.

Once a hot trend that saw everyone from celebrities and politicians to housewives and neighbors getting together to read and dish, the book clubs of today are evolving, forgoing the Oprah Winfrey model of read-and-discuss and getting creative about how they meet, read and socialize over books.

“I used to think if Oprah decided not to do her show, there would be a decline in book clubs,” said Diana Loevy, author of “The Book Club Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Reading Group Experience.”

“But now I don’t think so. Book clubs are evolving. They are creating social units that really work. They serve a social function.”

While there are no statistics available for the number of book clubs nationwide, there is more than passing anecdotal evidence about the evolution of the book club.

Take the reading groups registered at Village Books.

There’s “Pages, Pictures and Pints,” an all-comers monthly book club where participants read a book, go see the movie adapted from the book and then get together for drinks at a bar to discuss it. Among the books-turned-movies up for discussion in the new year is John le Carré’s “The Constant Gardener” and Joe Simpson’s “Touching the Void.”

There’s also a mother-daughter book group, which targets girls between 9 and 12. And for the area’s cooking lovers, a group known as Armchair Chefs focuses readings on cookbooks.

Around the country, book clubs have also become networking tools for young professionals. In Hollywood, a group of production assistants formed a reading group to discuss books about the movies or television shows they work on. In New York, a group of would-be playwrights gets together to read published plays and make suggestions about their own works.

Norman Hicks founded Reader’s Circle, a Web site aimed at providing an alternative to the traditional book club, as a way to meet people after graduating college.

Rather than have a group read one book following a structured format, Reader’s Circle promotes bringing people together in public settings, such as coffee houses, to discuss a variety of books at once.

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