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Book clubs have undergone a resurgence and are no longer the exclusive space of Oprah-loving moms. Young adults are now forming books clubs to socialize, enjoy a glass of wine and, yes, talk about a book. It’s no coincidence that the book component is last on this list. While it is clearly the lynchpin of the social affair, it is often not the motivation. What’s even more fascinating is that for all the digital ephemera and iBook and Kobo ‘obsessions’ of the younger generation, many millennials admit to enjoying the nostalgic, anachronistic feeling of holding and owning a good book in hard copy. And it’s no surprise then that publishers’ statistics back this up.
So what happens at a millennial book club? How does a group choose a book without the guidance of Ms. Winfrey? And why are book clubs so popular among young Canadians?
There’s no scientific rigour to this explanation. It is, quite simply, my firsthand account of being a millennial book clubber.
Choosing the books for the monthly gathering is often the hardest part. The book needs to be provocative, yet manageable; insightful, but light enough to enjoy with a couple glasses of Pinot. Whoever is hosting chooses the book. There’s not necessarily consensus. The books we have chosen have been the result of recommendations from family and friends, or based on what’s in the news, and sometimes just a Google search. While there are no rules to the process, each selection inevitably reflects the personality of the host. And to the surprise of most of us involved, each book club gathering produces a discussion that would make any English teacher proud.
Why is a book club so gratifying in the age of 140 character Tweets and wordless, worthless Instagram posts? The whole concept of spending significant face-to-face time discussing a book seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom about millennials. It’s a curious throwback, the book club: an opportunity to relive a bit of the high school and university experience without the homework and hassle; to read something with no strings attached; to think about something—critically—that isn’t tied to a deliverable or a bottom line. Perhaps for a generation that seems more connected to technology than to other people, it’s about creating a connection around a common, tangible element.
I also recognize that book clubs come with certain racial and socioeconomic baggage. Many argue that book clubs are still gatherings of the white educated elite who have too much time on their hands. I’m open to this debate. There is likely some truth to it. And while imperfect, most would agree that the more book clubbing millennials we have, the better off we are. When we are reading, thinking, questioning, challenging and, yes, having fun with a good read, it is a good thing.
‘Put down the smart phone and pick up a book.’ Every millennial has been chastised with this at one point. And while it may be hard for some baby boomers to believe, the millennial book club is indeed alive and well.