Long past are the days when I would stand outside for hours waiting for a chance to get into the hippest or newest club in the city. These days the only clubs I’m interesting in getting into are book clubs, whether real or virtual. And while what used to matter was what you wore or who you were with, what matters now is how many pages you have read, if your tea has steeped enough, and how willing you are to engage in the conversation.
For me, a book club is an opportunity to travel to another country without having to renew my passport (which I actually should do if I could find it). It’s also an opportunity to talk about subjects I’m interested in without having to prove that I’m intellectually capable of having a conversation about them. Far too often people assume just because the littlest people in your life call you “mom” that you must have checked out of participating in other life experiences. But that just isn’t the case.
This summer I was invited to be part of an online book club through Charitable Influence because I work as an advocate for Shot@Life with Charitable Influence co-founder Fadra Nally. We read, or some of us tried to read, The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz, a book about her life-transforming journey to Africa to help create a system of financial stability and sustainability for the women she met.
I can’t speak for the other members of the book club, but as someone who has been an active community volunteer for over ten years, I often wonder what my real level of impact has been. I hope that my actions have made other’s lives easier or better, but often times volunteering is simply casting a stone into the pond, seeing where it lands, but never knowing when the ripples are going to reach the water’s edge. You cast the stone regardless of knowing your final impact, but sometimes in life you are fortunate to have a moment when you see the fruits of your labor. Whether members of the “club” responded to prompts from Fadra, or we just waxed poetically about our own connection to the text, the whole purpose was to expand our horizons figuratively by traveling with Novogratz to Africa, and literally by contributing to the literature at hand.
And while I would love to have been able to sit across a coffee table from these incredible women (and hope there are opportunities to meet in person in the future), the truth is that an online community can provide a great deal of support and engage you in such a way to make you realize that your small part in your “real world” community is valuable and necessary in connection to the larger community in which we reside.
But what next after you finish the book? Well, you pick up another book and continue the relationships and connections you have made. Below I talk about a current book I’m reading that a book club could potentially connect with and why.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
We have increasingly become a nation where our children are losing their sense of place. Able to connect virtually at any given time, whether online to play a game, follow up on a Facebook post, or (hopefully) to do research, little by little the appeal of just playing outside has all but disappeared. Gone are the days where many a family vacation was a camp out in the woods, now it’s which resort has all the bells and whistles.
In Last Child in the Woods, Louv addresses how essential both nature and the simple act of play are to a child’s emotional health and physical well-being. The best part of reading this book is that it inspires the reader to take a moment and reflect on your own childhood and perhaps help create a better future for generations to come.
But the truth of a book club is that it doesn’t matter if you can meet in person, if you read your book from a kindle, or hold it in your hand, the point is you make the commitment to widen your horizons, to set off on a new adventure, and to connect with others who are interested in making those connections with you.
And the best part? No passport or PhD required.