Novel Ideas: Local Book Clubs Reach Beyond Best-seller Lists 

click to enlarge Members of the Cookbook Club pose with their January books, which are themed around healthy eating.

Emily Brock

Members of the Cookbook Club pose with their January books, which are themed around healthy eating.

Since they tend to be egalitarian gatherings, it wouldn’t be quite right to suggest all book clubs are not created equal, but it would definitely be correct to say, “Not all book clubs are created the same.” In the Treasure Valley, bookworms can meet in safe spaces while breaking out of the best-seller-only mold, thanks to public library staff, who are getting creative in order to reach an untapped readership.

A prime example is the Cookbook Club, a Meridian Public Library group as much for foodies as readers. The group meets at the library on the third Saturday of each month for an 11 a.m. book club “brunch,” where members not only talk about cookbooks but also share dishes based on what they’ve read.

“A lot of people don’t really have the time to sit down and read a book for a book club, but maybe they still want that interaction with people,” said club founder Meridian Library Assistant Emily Brock. “I know personally, I really like cookbooks, and I like cooking, and I like eating. So we thought it would be a really good idea if we had people check out cookbooks based on a theme, or an idea, or an author, or just a specific kind of cuisine, and then make a dish.”

In December, the theme was holiday sweets, and members brought homemade treats like peppermint marshmallows and sugar plums. For January, the group went healthy and for February it will focus on quick weeknight recipes.

The year-and-a-half-old Boise Public Library Comic Book Book Club meets at downtown bar/arcade Spacebar on the second Thursday of each month (keep an eye on the BPL Facebook to track meetings). Members split a pizza from Pie Hole while discussing three comics—one classic, one new and one written or illustrated by a woman—chosen by club organizer and librarian RE Zickau.

“I read a lot, and the past maybe two years, I’ve read mostly comic books and graphic novels,” Zickau said. “...I love the way they present stories in this beautiful, visual way that is so emotionally affecting.”

Other than Spacebar’s 21-and-older restriction, the CBBC transcends age and gender, welcoming comic book fans from all walks of life. Although comics and graphic novels are often quick reads, Zickau said they can still spark serious literary debates. The February choices, a series of love stories—including Blankets and The Backstagers—will likely prove no exception.

Another great group for adults is the Meridian Public Library Forever Young Book Club, which has been around since last September. Members meet at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at Village Coffee to discuss young adult fiction. Korena Wright, the 25-year-old library assistant and YA fiction enthusiast who organized the club, said she created it partly to avoid “the unfortunate stigma that comes with, ‘Oh, you’re an adult but you still read teen books? Wow.’” She said when she was working the library front desk, she noticed an influx of adults checking out YA novels and wanted to give them a place to “geek out” over titles like Cinder, a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella.

click to enlarge The Forever Young Book Club is a safe space for adults to share their passion for young adult fiction. - KORENA WRIGHT
  • Korena Wright
  • The Forever Young Book Club is a safe space for adults to share their passion for young adult fiction.

Best-selling local author Cynthia Hand, whose YA fantasy series Unearthly made her a national name, wasn’t surprised to learn a group of adults meet to discuss fiction like hers.

“The sort of going knowledge about the readership of YA is that it’s about half adult women—I do think our publishers keep that in mind,” she said.

Lastly, a new initiative from the Boise Public Library at Collister is reaching out to readers who might be the most unlikely book club candidates.

At the Introvert Book Club BYO Books book club, which had its inaugural meeting at the Garden City beer and wine bar The Local on Jan. 16, members hang out and read together—in silence. They don’t even read the same book. The idea, which may seem strange, is actually an international trend. A similar group, the Silent Book Club, has more than 40 chapters worldwide, from Ngoya, Japan to Durham, North Carolina, including an unofficial Boise chapter.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to appeal to different members of the community, so we thought we would give it a try,” said Holly Funk, spokesperson for Boise Public Library . “...People love to read, and a lot of those people are, just by nature, introverts and don’t want the pressure of having to do homework for a book club or read an assigned book. So the idea of getting together with people and carving out that time in your day to get together and read without any pressure is what I think has made the club successful.”

After producing a solid turnout of 10 enthusiastic bookworms, the club is scheduled to meet on the second Tuesday of each month (time and location are subject to change). Funk said interested introverts should check the library website for details. It’s good advice for anyone who wants to join a group of like-minded lit lovers.

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