Last summer, two of my friends from St. Olaf and I conducted a long-distance weekly book club meeting over Facebook Messenger (by far the classiest of all video chatting platforms). At the end of May we sat down and brainstormed a list of books we had read and liked, or books we had always been meaning to read but never got around to. Then, once settled in our respective corners of the country, we took turns picking a book off the list for the group to read. Our Saturday morning video chats started with discussing that week’s book, but often drifted into general catching-up and quality time. The routine helped us maintain our friendships, and seeing their faces every week assuaged my own occasional homesickness for the Hill. I read things I never would have picked for myself but ended up really enjoying. It was equally exciting (albeit a little nerve wracking) to watch my friends respond to books I already really cared about. I didn’t want to stop learning or building relationships over the summer, and the book club was a very nice way to continue doing both of those things.
There are several reasons our current predicament is an ideal time to start your own virtual book club. They are as follows:
- You may or may not have a little extra time on your hands.
- It’s understandable to be feeling like your life is on hold. When action in your own life is lacking, it can be nice to supplement with the thoughts and experiences of others (Oles can have a little escapism, as a treat).
- It is an excellent way to stay connected with people from a distance.
- Follow up to item three, it also provides built-in material for conversation! I’m sure we’re all running into the problem of increasingly sparse conversation as normal questions like “what’s new?” or “what have you been up to?” are met with heavy sighs and choruses of “not much.”
- Books are neat. I rest my case.
On that note, I humbly recommend “Normal People” by Sally Rooney for this month’s pick. Although this wasn’t one I read for my book club, it was suggested by a friend of mine, so the sentiment is the same. “Normal People” follows the on-again, off-again relationship of two college students. The classic scenes of house parties and academic discussion provided a welcome dose of nostalgia, but I found even more comfort in the book’s core claim that real love and friendship is able to endure all the boring, messy and difficult parts of life. It’s also short and fast-paced, so it would be fairly easy to juggle while we’re still in class. Happy zooming.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- The Plague by Albert Camus (timely)
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
- Watership Down by Richard Adams