Lessons Learnt from the Stylight Book Club

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For anyone who has ever been a part of a book club, you know the existential threats: no one reads the book, awkward silences (conversely, talking about everything BUT the book), bad book choices, inconvenient meeting times and locations, attacks on one another’s thoughts and opinions. The list goes on.  

In early 2019, during the course of discussion over lunch with my team, we had a bold idea: let’s create a book club that would actually work. Several of my teammates were keen to read more in the coming year (it was January, so our New Year’s resolutions were still in full-ambition mode), and hey, we really liked one another, so what if we tried to all read more together?

Nearly two years later, our Stylight Book Club still exists – we’ve read fourteen books, had thirteen different Stylighters join, and we still really like one another!  The only thing that has changed is our venue – instead of meeting over lunch in Stylight’s beautiful atrium, we’ve had fully-remote meetings due to the pandemic.

In reflection of the longevity of our experiment, I conferred with a few of our book club members about their experiences in the book club.

What was a book you suggested to the book club which was chosen, and why did you suggest it?

Raul said, “Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. The depiction of the wilderness of America during the 19th century and Cather’s nuanced depiction of native Americans were two reasons I was intrigued by this and suggested it.”

What book did you most enjoy in the Stylight Book Club thus far and why?

Delores said, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I loved the story and how relatable the characters are. I also love how it made me think about people and the reasons they act the way they do.”

What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to start a book club? 

Vidak gave three recommendations:

  1. Sufficient choice and a democratic vote: “It’s cool if members offer a choice of several (diverse) books and the others vote on them – this helps with choosing a book most people would enjoy and gives agency to the members.”  We use a simple polling app in Slack to cast our votes.
  2. Less is more: “Make it spontaneous, with as few rules as possible, so that people do not find it tedious to participate.”  Besides our voting procedure, we have no set rules; the person who has suggested the selected book takes care of setting up the meeting and deciding how, if at all, he or she wants to structure the meeting.
  3. Encouragement and inclusion: “Encourage people to join the discussions even if they haven’t finished the book.”

These guiding principles, in addition to having enthusiastic and thoughtful members, have sustained the success of the Stylight Book Club.  Thanks to the awesome Stylighters who have made this book club simply a joy!  We are looking forward to another year of books in 2021.

Author: Julie MacDonell

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