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You Should Join a Book Club

If you’d asked me ten years ago where I thought I’d be in life and what I thought I’d be doing, I can almost guarantee that my answer wouldn’t have contained: proud member of a book club.

I also don’t think I could have anticipated the global pandemic that would take the lives of millions of Americans along with many others throughout the world. Although, they say history repeats itself, and maybe if I had been taking more notes about the Spanish influenza that broke out in 1918, I could have prepared myself for this.

But the pandemic isn’t what I wanted to talk about, though it might add some sort of extra layer to the social implications of an in-person book club. I joined a book club at the end of last year. I was hesitant at first. My parents had been nudging me towards it for a while, and I had delayed their encouragement with excuses.

The fear of the unknown kept me at bay.

Until, miraculously, one day I had a stroke of bravery. A momentary lapse of judgement that would lock me into a commitment with a book club and its members every third Tuesday of the month for years to come.

(I’m being a little dramatic here because I think sometimes it makes life a little more fun.)

My social anxiety has a way of distorting true reality into a scary place. A place where I am judged for who I am based solely on how I look and the messy words that can sometimes escape my nervous mouth. It is a calculated risk to exit my comfort zone—to let people perceive me in full transparency.

But I did it.

In the throes of the pandemic, I signed up to meet at a small church with a group of people and talk about literature.

At first, there were lots of things to be intimidated by. A lot of the members were older than me—in my mind, that meant they were far wiser (I’m still on the fence about this lol). The books on the reading list were ones I wouldn’t usually pick up. The thought of having to give my opinion in front of an audience (like fifteen people), made me feel queasy.

But you know what? I did it anyway. I did it almost out of spite for myself. A sort of self-sadism. Sometimes the only way to do something is kicking and screaming. Thankfully for my new book club buddies, it would be internalized kicking and screaming.

The book club members welcomed me with open arms. It was nothing like how I’d cooked it up to be in my mind. The people there wore friendly smiles, and they expressed how happy they were I was there to contribute. It eased my mind and my insecurities.

I’ve been going for about four months now. I am finally starting to feel less like I am sitting around a table with strangers, and more like I’m engaged in a lively discussion with friends. I find myself just thankful to have a new experience. The pandemic has really put a damper on trying new things for me.

I think all writers are observers. We have to be in some way or another. We have to be able to see things—the unspoken things and use those delicate details to create richer characters and situations. So, I use my time among my new peers to observe. To see things for what they are, and to hear my fellow humans speak of the magic contained inside books.

It has been good for me in ways I hadn’t considered it could be. I do not possess the gift of conversing easily with people I do not know well, but this has given me an opportunity to try and to learn with a group of people that are open-minded and well-intentioned. There is a certain kind of comfort in knowing that even if the world feels like it is going to shit, there are good people in it, too. Good people that I get the pleasure of knowing.

The topics in the books we read are not always easy to discuss. Actually, I’d argue that they are sometimes the most controversial topics, especially to be discussed in some place like rural East Texas. But the people there continue to surprise and inspire me.

The obligation to read a new book every month keeps my mind engaged and active. The topics discussed keep me on my toes. The stories I get to experience take me to new places I have never been before.

The list of good things I have felt about joining a book club are overwhelming, and I say all of this to encourage you to find and join one yourself. Even if it is out of your comfort zone. The rich encounters it will bring to your life will give you pause and gratitude. And in a world that can often feel like it is on fire, the steadiness of my new friends at the book club gives me strength to endure.

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