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Elizabeths' OCTOBER Dotters Pick

This month I chose a book and read it (twice) but I can’t write about it and I can’t tell you why (for at least two months).

Sorry to be coy. One thing I despise in others and myself is saying you’re going to do something and then not doing it, so I promise I’ll deliver what was promised in due course. You’ll have forgotten about it by then anyway, as you’ve probably already forgotten what book I was going to read this month.

Anyway. Let’s talk about book club! As we near the end of October, we approach the last two reads of the year, which seems hard to believe. (Allow me this moment of nostalgia.) It feels like yesterday we were all crammed into Red’s Mercantile, laughing nervously, waiting to find out what we would read, all my fears percolating in the back of my mind: will anyone show up, will people read the books, will we have anything to say?

Thankfully, all of my fears have been assuaged and my expectations exceeded.

The other day someone asked me what my favorite book club read had been for the year, and I had a hard time answering. As I mentally paged through the list, I found myself not recalling the books, but recalling the conversations.

I write this in every email to book club and I mean it: I always walk away from our discussions with a greater appreciation of the book. That goes for books I’ve read before, and books that are new to me.

When we read The Girls by Emma Cline, someone noted they were intimately familiar with the setting of the book, and that it brought back memories of where they grew up. Others lived through the late 60s and remember the time period. I had no connection to either, but despite our age differences and geographies, many of us identified with the themes of belonging and insecurities beget by adolescence.

Sometimes books resonate with us because we see ourselves eerily reflected in them, and other times a book is so far removed from our imagination or experience that we relish seeing none of ourselves there on the page. It’s been a privilege to meet each month and hear how people interacted with the book, what it brought up for them, and their experience reading it.

Which, while I’m on the topic, has been one of the more important things I’ve learned this year: always open the discussion by having everyone speak to their experience reading the book. “Experience” is usually broader than whether or not you liked a book, and it’s amazing to hear the different perspectives and takeaways of each individual. This way, you know where everyone stands, so to speak, and from there, there are myriad directions the discussion can go in.

Another important thing I’ve learned this year: do not schedule a book club during a Packers game.

Since we’ve had so much fun this year, we’re re-launching book club next year!

We’re working on securing a physical location and financing for the bookstore, and ideally we’ll eventually have a space for book clubs to meet and discuss what they’re reading. For now, we’ll continue to meet at cafes or people’s homes to mull over our monthly picks. And we have really appreciated people’s flexibility and patience in that, as well as your willingness to volunteer your home to this ragtag group of readers.

For 2017, we read books authored by women, as there is a huge disparity in publishing and, thus, reader diets. For 2018, we’ll read books authored by people of color. Many of the books on our longlist were recommended by book club members throughout the year, and we’re going to do things a little differently this year, based on your feedback.

First, we’re going to prioritize paperback books since they’re more affordable. Secondly, we won’t set the reading list for the entire year all at once. Instead, we’ll vote every three months on 7-10 titles and choose the top three picks.

I am personally really excited about next year’s choices, as there are many books that are new to me: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, among others.

If you’d like to join us, be sure to sign up for our newsletter. We send two e-mails a month to our book club: a reminder that we’re meeting in a week, and a thank you after our meeting. We value your privacy and don’t share your information. Just be sure to add us to your contacts so our emails don’t wind up in your e-mail crazy drawers.

In November we’ll read On Beauty by Zadie Smith, followed by Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in December. We’ll take a break for January and be back at it in February. We can’t wait to see you there!