I have decided to lean in to the enduring pastime of book clubs, and I have the town of Lewiston to thank.
Upon my arrival in 2018 as the new adult services librarian at Lewiston City Library, I inherited a Friday morning book club called Coffee and Books that had been dormant for a couple of months. Participants were eager to resume, an excellent book list had already been selected, and a few key members spread the word.
My first read with this group was the hilarious and quirky “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,” by Gail Honeyman. We closed out 2018 with “Home Fire,” by Kamila Shamsie and have finalized the list for 2019’s titles. I enjoy my conversations with this group so much that I plan to launch two new book clubs in 2019. Saturday Sleuths, a book club focused on mystery and suspense, will debut at 11 a.m. Jan. 12 at the library and will continue every second Saturday. The Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 6:30 p.m. starting Jan. 28 at The Blue Lantern Coffee House in downtown Lewiston. It will meet the fourth Monday of each month.
To select the roster of book club titles, I have consulted the invaluable network of librarians who share their own book club hits, as well as reviews and media coverage. The ideal titles invite free-flowing discussion that needn’t be reined in unless it veers way off topic. For “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” by Atul Gawande, which the Coffee and Books group discussed in October, I didn’t even have to open my mouth or draw from my carefully prepared list of questions. Readers were ready to share their personal experiences related to the book’s themes, and the selection drew in folks who came specifically for that title, which is always welcome. I could’ve listened all day.
It’s true that book clubs are as much about community as they are about the books themselves. There is nothing better than challenging, entertaining and illuminating discussions with people you may only see once a month, but whose opinions you come to treasure. Where these conversations take place, and with what food and drink, matters less than the fact that people continue to show up, whether or not they’ve read the book or taken notes.
Some trending titles for 2019 book clubs include “The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” by Heather Morris, for lovers of historical fiction; “The Magpie Murders” or “The Word is Murder,” both by the inimitable Anthony Horowitz; “The Great Alone,” by Kristin Hannah, which begs the group to discuss the author’s vivid portrayal of Alaska; “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” by Caroline Fraser, a biography that can be endlessly mined; and such perennial book club favorites as “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles; “A Man Called Ove,” or anything else by Fredrik Bachman; “Little Fires Everywhere,” by Celeste Ng; and “Before We Were Yours,” by Lisa Wingate. “Educated,” by Tara Westover, will likely replace “Hillbilly Elegy” as the go-to memoir. If you are still stumped for titles, look no further than “The Great American Read,” an eight-part PBS series that explores the power of reading through 100 of America’s most-loved novels. It has patrons of all ages clamoring for the classics.
Amid New Year’s resolutions and phrases like, “I plan to read more in 2019,” consider joining a book club to hold yourself accountable and more fully digest a recent good read. All area library book clubs, both new and established, will be happy to have you.
Olmstead is the Adult Services Librarian for Lewiston City Library. She reads everything and also enjoys hiking, knitting and yoga. Her 2019 New Year’s resolution is to read more. Have a book club? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and share what your group is reading.