Soap­box: The joy of book clubs

Are you look­ing to widen your friend­ship cir­cle? For fun, food, wine and new per­spec­tives, why not join or start a book club?

NEXT (New Zealand) - - Contents - by Deb­bie Har­ri­son

sSleep bet­ter. Eat well. Move more. Join a book club. Sure, that last one doesn’t fea­ture on the list of most pop­u­lar New Year’s res­o­lu­tions but I reckon if you whack it onto your list of ways to im­prove your well­be­ing in 2019, you won’t re­gret it. Hi, my name’s Deb­bie and I’m a Book Club­ber. I know what you’re think­ing – a bunch of bored housewives wear­ing se­ri­ous cloth­ing in muted tones, fu­ri­ously de­bat­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween com­mas and Ox­ford com­mas, and wax­ing lyri­cal about Hem­ing­way’s fore­sight. Maybe some book clubs are like this – and keep rock­ing that, if that’s you and you love it – but our vibe is less lit­er­a­ture and more ladies’ lunch. Think 12 women, prodi­gious food plat­ters, bot­tles of bub­bly and sparkling wa­ter, and enough chat­ter and laugh­ter to keep the host’s fam­ily awake well past their bed­time (soz!).

A friend took it upon her­self to start our club, pick­ing women from dif­fer­ent walks of her life to be a part of it. She was in­spired to set up her chap­ter (yes, book pun) by a photo of her sis­ter’s book club on hol­i­day, wear­ing match­ing kaf­tans in By­ron Bay – and that sums up what book club is about. Clue: it’s not the books.

Yes, at book club you read books; sure, you talk about what you read, dis­cussing nar­ra­tives and deeper mes­sages and how it may have re­lated to your life; but the real rea­son you get to­gether once a month and ac­tu­ally look for­ward to it? The com­pany and the con­ver­sa­tion. Those few hours, sched­uled in come hell or high wa­ter, where you can re­lax and chat, drink wine and scoff snacks, and get to know a bunch of awe­some women. In our group we’ve got teach­ers, mid­wives, busi­ness own­ers, mums and high-fly­ing ex­ecs – but at book club no-one cares what you do. It’s more about what you have to say.

I don’t know what it is about book club (okay, maybe it’s the wine) but it doesn’t take long for the group to hun­ker down and share more about them­selves than you get from work or school pick-up chat­ter. In the past 11 months, our book club has in­cluded vul­ner­a­ble dis­cus­sions about anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, dys­func­tional fam­i­lies, mar­riage and par­ent­ing tips, work grum­bles, raw child­hood sto­ries and – be­fore it sounds like some hideously maudlin meet – some other rip-roar­ing top­ics I can’t bring up here, but which have been very ed­u­ca­tional (and hi­lar­i­ous and NSFW*) in­deed.

It’s a proven fact (by some­one, some­where) that hang­ing out with peo­ple dif­fer­ent to you is good for you. It im­proves your self-aware­ness and ac­cep­tance of oth­ers; it makes you think crit­i­cally about what you thought you knew; it gives you new per­spec­tive; it adds stim­u­la­tion to your life. But it’s not al­ways easy to forge new friend­ships. As it is, it can be just as hard to find the time to nur­ture your ex­ist­ing ones – with the busy­ness of life, date nights with your girl­friends can quickly be­come a ca­su­alty. Be­fore you know it, it’s been six months since you caught up and sud­denly the only news you’ve kept up with has come from their In­sta­gram feed. En­ter book club and its monthly meet­ing.

Carve out some time for your­self in 2019. Sched­ule in reg­u­lar catch-ups with other women who chal­lenge, stim­u­late and en­cour­age you. Start a book club. You won’t re­gret it. Just re­mem­ber: it’s not all about the books.

*Tech-speak for ‘not safe for work’.

The real rea­son you get to­gether once a month and ac­tu­ally look for­ward to it?

The com­pany and the con­ver­sa­tion

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