Why start a book club? I’m so glad you asked.

Why start a book club? I’m so glad you asked.

If you have ever drawn a blank when someone asked about your hobbies before blurting out “reading” followed by an exhaled sigh of relief, we can be friends. My passion for books has actually already paved paths to new friendships. While reading is a solo sport, it can be even more enjoyable with friends.

This is why, after much internal debate, I started a book club with a handful of college friends in January of 2021. Now that the book club has been up and running for 2 1/2 years, I can only shake my head at how long it took me to make that desire a reality.

I have not regretted a second I’ve spent reading and discussing with my book club, which is why—if you have even a remote interest in reading—I highly recommend starting a book club of your own.

Perhaps J.R.R. Tolkien said it best in “The Fellowship of the Ring,” speaking to Frodo as the wizard Gandalf: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Below, I have compiled a list of several book club benefits, and I can only hope it inspires you to start your very own book club!

☑It helps you stay in touch with friends

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people have become more creative and intentional about staying in touch with friends and family. This led to a boom in video calls, which allowed people to simultaneously social distance from each other and spend time together catching up, playing co-op games, or, perhaps, discussing the last books they read.

That’s right—your book club can meet anywhere, even virtually! The locational flexibility of book clubs can help you stay in touch with college friends, out-of-state friends, or even local friends with busy schedules. Whether you meet virtually from the comfort of your home or at a cozy cafe, starting a book club will help you and your friends set aside time to spend together on a regular basis.

☑It strengthens your reading habit

I can’t tell you how many people I know who were big readers as kids and fell out of the habit as they got into high school, college, or careers. I recall going through a dry spell in reading for a few years where I would start a new book, get halfway through, and never touch it again.

Since I began my book club, I’ve finished every book I’ve started and even gone back to finish a few of the books I had abandoned during my dry spell. I read more and more books every year now, and I’m on track to read at least double the number of books I read last year. 

The thought of meeting up with friends to talk about a book will compel you to establish a solid reading habit so you are ready to discuss your favorite parts of your current book club pick with friends when the time comes—you’ve got to avoid those spoilers!

☑It introduces you to books you wouldn’t normally read

If you set up your book club so that every member recommends books, it is likely that you will wind up reading a book you’ve never heard of or would never have picked up on your own. This invites you to dive into new genres, explore unfamiliar plotlines, and discover new stories to love.

Whether the book is breathtakingly good, dishearteningly meh, or appallingly bad, you have a book club where you can express your genuine reaction to the story. Read a good book? Now you can gush about your favorite parts alongside people who will understand and nerd out with you. Read a bad book? Now you can vent to people who will empathize and get angry with you.

Hit or miss, reading the book will be worthwhile when you can recall the highs and lows of the story and debate book ratings among friends.

☑It is easier than ever to stick to a book club with audiobooks

If, like me, you have resisted any form of reading that does not involve holding a physical book in your hands, you may be hesitant to give audiobooks a try. However, I will say that after I finally broke down and listened to an audiobook for the first time this past year, I definitely saw the appeal.

I am a slow reader, so one of my hesitations in starting a book club was my fear of not being able to finish the book in time for the meeting. With audiobooks, you know exactly how long it will take you to finish a book, and you can even speed up the audio if you are a habitual procrastinator with a book club meeting looming in the near future.

Since you can read audiobooks hands-free, you can multitask and still savor an escape from reality or admire motivational words from your favorite celebrity. Your schedule for reading will open up when you have the ability to listen to an audiobook while driving on your commute to work, washing the dishes, or working out at the gym. In my experience, listening to audiobooks while completing these menial tasks actually makes them more enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong—physical books are still my favorite way to read. However, for a casual read or a non-fiction book, I keep audiobooks in mind as an alternative to obtaining a physical copy.

☑It is a cheap hobby

When investing in new hobbies or diving deeper into existing hobbies, money can be a potential barrier between you and your latest obsession. Music requires instruments, sports require gear, crafts require supplies, gardening requires plants, and on the list goes.

Fortunately, reading can be an inexpensive or free hobby if you take advantage of the right resources. You can never go wrong checking out books from the library; however, if you would like to own the books you read, you can find low-cost alternatives to the full market price of books at several local and online stores. 

Some of my favorite, cheap places to purchase books are Green Door in Hobart, ThriftBooks, Goodwill, local resale shops, Ebay, and Facebook Marketplace. Using these resources, I’ve purchased many books under $5 and even one under $1 (courtesy of First Presbyterian Resale Shop of Valparaiso).

☑It will inspire you to tour the Region’s bookstores

Whether you are looking to buy brand-new or secondhand books, the Region is home to an assortment of bookstores. You can shop at chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, or you can explore local bookstores. Local options include The Press in Valparaiso, O'Gara & Wilson, Ltd. Antiquarian Booksellers in Chesterton, Green Door in Hobart, and Bookworm in Wanatah to name a few.

If comic books are more your speed, you will be pleased to know that Northwest Indiana also houses several comic book stores, such as Tenth Planet in Schererville, Creative Comics in Griffith, Galactic Greg’s in Valparaiso, and Dragon’s Lair in Portage.

After considering all the perks that come with starting a book club, you are ready to be the proud founder of your own bookish community!

On your mark, get set, slow down, bundle up, light a candle, and read a good book.