• Keeping Friends

Book Club Friendships: We Read, Then Talk

Published: November 15, 2022 | Last Updated: November 15, 2022 By | Reply Continue Reading
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Anyone who has has experienced the joys of book club friendships realizes that reading groups are about so much more than the book!

In this guest post, Halifax-based writer Sandra Nowlan recounts the inspiring story of a group of women who have been meeting, reading and talking together for more than four decades.

Since 1983, I’ve ”been privileged to be part of a group of seven neighbours who met in Halifax, Nova Scotia  to form a book club. Remarkably, the group is still meeting and we are excited to celebrate four decades of reading and friendship.

We didn’t know much about how to operate a book club but as neighbours it was convenient to meet in one another’s homes. Gradually we put together guidelines so our club would operate smoothly. 

To avoid Christmas and summer holidays, our reading year ran from September to November and January to May, and we drew up a list of books by the beginning of the year.  

Each member was to recommend a book that she had read which would be available in paperback or at the library. The host of the meeting chose the book for discussion, giving a rationale for her choice, providing background on the author, leading the discussion and providing refreshments.  

Originally, we met on Wednesday evenings but as we aged, we changed our time to the afternoon. Out of courtesy, we notified the host if we were unable to attend her meeting. If we were unable to host our scheduled meeting, we arranged to exchange with another.

Eventually, our membership grew to eleven as members would suggest the name of a friend or neighbour to the group for approval. This usually worked well although on one occasion, the potential new member refused to host the group so she was dropped.  By design, we limited our membership to 9 or 10 since we were hosting in our homes and seating was limited.

Choosing what to read in our book club

Over time, we have discussed an eclectic variety of books—fiction and nonfiction—but we have favoured novels by Canadian authors such as Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Yann Martel and Louise Penny.  

Our first book was Obasan by Joy Kogawa, a nonfiction account of Canada’s internment and persecution of its citizens of Japanese descent during WWII from the perspective of a young child.  

One notable historical choice was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel Elective Affinities, a disturbingly dark work about rational people driven to distraction by passion and love.

Our discussions are often lively. We sometimes have differences of opinion but these are treated with respect, and through discussion we have  learned more about each other’s interests and opinions, deepening our friendships.  

Celebrating our longevity 

To mark our twenty-fifth anniversary, we had a retreat at the Oak Island Lodge Resort on Nova Scotia’s South Shore where we luxuriated in the spa, enjoyed the seascape,  discussed our book (and the Mystery of Oak Island) and celebrated with food and wine.  

We reflected back on our years together, commenting on some of our memorable books, marveling at how our friendships had grown and wondering what lay in our future.

Our book club achieves national recognition

The story about the book club in the National Post

The story about the Tupper Book Club in the National Post

Six years ago one of Canada’s national newspapers, the National Post, had a feature on book clubs.  I contacted them about our group and they enthusiastically gave us  a full page spread with colour photos highlighting some of our favourite books and authors.  

But we had to deal with a problem. When the National Post wanted to print the story about us and asked for the name of our club, it was embarrassing as we had never called our group anything other than Book Club. We had considered calling it Conrose, taking the name of a neighbourhood park, but since several members had moved out of the community, that didn’t seem appropriate.  

So we looked at any historical connections. Most of our children had attended Sir Charles Tupper Elementary School in our neighbourhood so we pondered calling it Tupper Book Club. Sir Charles Tupper was a famous Nova Scotian, Father of Confederation, Prime Minister of Canada, premier of Nova Scotia, a renowned medical doctor/ obstetrician and first President of the Canadian Medical Association.  

Some members recalled rumours that Tupper had had a racy past as a medical doctor but we decided not to hold that against him. So we became the Tupper Book Club, using his name for a little historical gravitas and the story was published.

 That national recognition impressed on us that maybe we were something special.

Book club members becoming friends

Starting another year of the book club with a potluck luncheon

Starting another year of the book club with a potluck luncheon

For the past few years, I have hosted our group for a potluck luncheon each September at our summer home on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, about 40 minutes from Halifax.  Members enjoy getting out near the water, catching up on everyone’s news after the summer, and leisurely discussing our chosen book.

I prepare appetizers and a main course and the members bring some of their favourite dishes. The food is so tasty that everyone wants the recipes. In fact, last year I collected the  recipes and put them together in a little cookbook that I sent out to all. 

We were able to assemble for our September meetings in the country even during COVID in 2020 and 2021, trying to keep a bit of social distance in our well ventilated sunporch.  However, at the height of the pandemic we held our meetings on Zoom.

Finding mutual support

Mutual support and care for each other is at the heart of our group, sometimes secondary to the reading.

One of our members passed away after a long illness but she came to the group as long as she was physically able.  Listening to the discussion and feeling our friendship and support was very important to her.  As we age, we value these strong connections to each other even more.

Looking to our future

Celebrating 40 years of reading with friends

Celebrating 40 years of reading with friends

Five years ago when we were planning how we would celebrate the fortieth anniversary of our book club, some members enthusiastically suggested  a transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary, a European river cruise, or a stay at a fancy resort. 

However, the intervening years have not been kind and infirmity is encroaching on some of our members and their spouses, making ambitious trips like those unrealistic.  Likely, we will plan a modest celebration close to home in 2023 to mark the occasion.

In the meantime, we have had commemorative T-shirts made – white lettering on heather blue shirts that say BOOK CLUB over an open book showing 40 and under that a Latin phrase, Legitur Ergo Loqui, meaning,  “We Read Then Talk”.  We shall continue to do that.

Previously on The Friendship Blog

Tags: , , , ,


Leave a Reply