Books clubs help provided sense of community, belonging


When the world was in the throes of the pandemic, every individual, organization, business and nonprofit had many difficult decisions to make. We kept hearing the phrase “essential.” Essential workers. Essential services. Organizations were forced to look at their core missions and name their essentials that would be maintained to keep some normalcy of the day-to-day and maintain their mission.

In libraries, the first answer was obvious – books. We worked for a long time to perfect the art of safely loaning materials to our patrons. After we passed that hurdle, we focused on the next issue our patrons missed – community. Many of our patrons find community within the regular programming and classes offered at the library.

Last week, in our “Back to the Basics” series, I talked about storytimes and the essential learning opportunities they provide for children before they begin their K-12 formal education. This week, we’ll take a look at the other end of the lifelong learning spectrum – adult book clubs. When programming finally returned to the Delaware County District Library, the first two types of gatherings that we deemed essential to bring back as quickly as possible were storytimes and book discussion groups.

As I’ve already mentioned, at the heart of book clubs is the opportunity for community and social connection. Individuals from all walks of life gather and give their time to connect with others who share a passion for reading, creating a sense of community and belonging, and opening the door for new friendships along the way.

From a lifelong learning perspective, book clubs encourage the exploration of new ideas, genres, and authors, fueling curiosity and intellectual stimulation. While some groups prefer highly critical discussions and literary analysis of a book, others enjoy sharing their unique perspectives and insights with relation to the text.

The librarians and staff leading the book groups at DCDL have fun choosing their book club titles. Some take a democratic approach, asking each book club member to vote upon their favorite titles for the coming months. Others have an overall sense of their group’s preferences and choose titles on their behalf accordingly. Most book clubs will read a variety of genres and writing styles over the course of the year, with very little ties in common month-to-month.

In May, our book clubs will discuss sci-fi time-travel fiction; domestic fiction; historical fiction; and a contemporary romance. Another book club will wrap up the spring with a generic “What have YOU been reading?” prompt, where readers will bring some titles of books they’ve read outside of the group to share with the regular attendees.

Reading books outside of typical genre preferences can help to broaden perspectives and deepen understanding of unfamiliar subjects. This helps foster empathy and understanding. Book discussions can also be introspective, prompting participants to reflect on their own beliefs, values and experiences, pondering “How would I act/react in this situation?”

Even if someone doesn’t consider themselves a “deep thinker” – book groups are fun and a nice source of stress relief. Sharing laughter, insights and even disagreements with fellow book lovers can make the reading experience more rewarding and memorable.

I’ll give you a sneak preview of some of the titles coming up this June at a library near you. I hope you’ll check out one that intrigues you and join us for a discussion.

• “The Secret Life of Violet Grant” by Beatriz Williams. Discussion takes place Wednesday, June 5 at 11 a.m. in the Ostrander Branch Library. Defying the privilege of her 1960s Fifth Avenue family to pursue a job with a style magazine, recent college graduate Vivian Schuyler discovers a secret about an aunt she never knew who at the dawn of World War I fled her oppressive marriage to pursue an audacious goal.

• “The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi. Discussion takes place Thursday, June 6 at 5:30 p.m. virtually and also Thursday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m. in the Liberty Branch Library. Register for the virtual group at In the wake of a southeastern Nigerian mother’s discovery of her son’s body on her doorstep, a family struggles to understand the enigmatic nature of a youth shaped by disorienting blackouts, diverse friendships and a cousin’s worldly influence.

• “A Marvellous Light” by Freya Marske. Discussion takes place Wednesday, June 12 at 6 p.m. in the Liberty Branch Library. Robin Blyth is accidentally named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society and is forced to contend with the beauty and danger operating beneath normal reality while uncovering what happened to his predecessor.

• “The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime and a Dangerous Obsession” by Michael Finkel. Discussion takes place Thursday, June 20 at 2 p.m. in the Orange Branch Library. This riveting true story of art, crime, love and an insatiable hunger to possess beauty at any cost draws us into the strange and fascinating world of prolific art thief, Stéphane Breitwieser, who stole and kept more than 300 objects until one final act of hubris brought everything crashing down.

• “Agent Josephine: American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy” by Damien Lewis. Discussion takes place Tuesday, June 25 at 1 p.m. in the Delaware Main Library. This story of the world’s richest and most glamorous entertainer looks at her heroic stint during World War II as an Allied spy in occupied France and her efforts to combat Nazism.

If you have a question that you would like to see answered in this column, mail it to Nicole Fowles, Delaware County District Library, 84 E. Winter St., Delaware, OH 43015, or call us at 740-362-3861. You can also email your questions by visiting the library’s web site at or directly to Nicole at [email protected]. No matter how you contact us, we’re always glad you asked!

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