C'est la vie:Reading for Knowledge

My friend Shannon has a gift for gathering women. I imagine every woman she’s met, including me, seeks out an invitation to her book club – I practically bribed her for mine! Since I joined five-plus years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to meet wonderful, intelligent women who have since become good friends. There have been breakups, makeups, engagements, weddings, and babies. But most of all, I’ve read books I would have never chosen for myself, and their stories have created wonderful dialogues from which I’ve learned immensely.

Read along as Shannon shares why she started a book club and gives you tips to start your own!

What compelled you to start a book club?
Unemployment! Or should I say I was…between contracts in my first year freelancing. I had a lot of time on my hands but knew my next job was starting in a month so I decided to do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do – like start a book club.

What was the hardest part about starting your book club?
Finding a formula that I thought would work for all the busy, smart, active women I wanted in the club. I read books on book clubs to research and came up with my own formula. Seems to work as we’re almost 6 years in!

How do you balance book club with every day life?
I always have pleasure-read books on the go so I don’t find it hard at all. The picking of dates for meetings seems to be the hardest part because I want to please everyone and have everyone that’s read the book be able to come but it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s not hard to find time for the things you love.

How has the book club impacted your life?
It’s honestly the best thing I’ve ever done. If I could figure out how to get paid for it and live comfortably off it, I’d quit my day job in a heartbeat. Academically, I’ve read a lot of books and genres I wouldn’t have on my own and that’s been a good experience for me even if I don’t like them all. Personally its given me a lot of confidence being able to keep it going so long and so successfully. And I’ve met women that have become like sisters which I might not otherwise have had the chance to get to know.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own book club?
Have realistic expectations of your members commitment levels and try to create a format that works for the majority. And like any good party, invite twice as many as you think you want as they almost never all come to the same meetings. Change it up – change locations, themes/types of books, how you select books, food that’s brought to the meeting – and for us, sometimes, costumes! Variety is key as you want different types of readers to keep things fresh.

Since you’ve read so many books now, any recommendations?
Selects from just the 33 we’ve read together so far:
Shogun by James Clavell – an Epic Fiction with so much historical information
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – Palatable Science!
Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand – Incredible non-fiction story
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – One of the most beautiful books ever written!

 Thanks for sharing Shannon! If you have any questions for Shannon leave them in the comment section below.

[Photos by Brittany Ambridge for Martha Stewart Living; interior design by Julia Leach]

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