They Just Keep Reading
Published on November 23, 2022
The Library’s virtual book club gets ready to select its 50th book
And the winning book in the Stay at Home Book Club’s
poll to pick the 50th title to read is … Lessons in Chemistry
by Bonnie Garmus.
Near the end of each month, the club participants weigh in by voting in an online poll to pick the book selection of the month.
For November, “The Lamplighters” by Emma Stonex edged out four other choices with 37 percent of respondents wanted to learn about a tale inspired by a true story – the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from a remote Scottish island.
The book club was launched in March 2020. Founded the day the Fort Worth Public Library temporarily closed to the public because of COVID-19, membership swelled into the hundreds quickly as word spread. Now the roster is edging toward 900 strong, with many active participants talking about the current book selections and other good reads they’ve come across.
“This book club continues to be such a delight, and I am moved that I’ve gotten to meet so many new people in the group,” said Adult Services Librarian Jana Hill. “They are the kind of smart, engaged readers that most librarians would give anything to work with! It’s a wonderful community to be a part of.”
How it all works
The books that members choose from have to meet certain criteria, including work from authors with diverse backgrounds, Hill said. That also includes a diversity of genres, even though thrillers are popular right now.
“Part of my job is to help readers expand their horizons, so each poll includes a variety of titles that may include mystery, science fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, memoirs, and yes – even thrillers,” Hill said. “Some of the books offered up are very well-known, and others are a little under the radar. It keeps things interesting.”
Overall, there has to be a rich, satisfying story whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, she said, something club participants have in common. Finally, the titles have to be available as unlimited checkouts of both ebooks and audiobooks – something publishers determine.
Susan Smith joined the club soon after it was launched, because it was something new and different but also because it was familiar – a group of people talking about books.
“Definitely it has gotten bigger and attracted people well outside the DFW area. I also think the books we read have gotten even more diverse,” Smith said. “Group members have also gotten to know each other. The first time I met Jana in person was kind of surreal.”
The first book the club read was the classic “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.
Hill said it’s hard for her to pick a favorite because each title has been special in some way. “That said, my personal favorites have probably been ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles and ‘Midnight Riot,’ the first book in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series.”
The virtual nature of the group allows members to easily put their participation on pause for whatever reason and rejoin the group when the time is right for them. Using Facebook posts for discussion, Hill said, means that the group can accommodate readers who are unable to attend in-person book clubs such as new parents, people who work evenings and those who do not drive.
Smith said it is the fast pace of the group is part of its appeal. “Don’t like the current book? Too busy to read? That’s OK, we’ll be on to a new book soon,” she said. “In really enjoyed ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ and ‘The Vanishing Half.’ These are books I never would have picked up on my own. I think that’s another appeal of a group like this.”
Hill said that after 50 books, the Stay at Home Book Club is still a joy.
“I am constantly amazed by this book club,” she said.“ I expected maybe 25 intrepid readers to join us, so the numbers are obviously astounding. The individual readers are what make it great, though. Together we have created an environment that is warm, welcoming, and judgement-free.”