A recent article by Vulture does a cheeky alcohol audit on Book Club – a movie that opens with four long-time friends, 50 Shades of Grey and a glass of white. Approximately 33 glasses (plus three bottles) later, the audit comprehensively confirms the movie totally buys into the stereotype that all book clubs are as much about booze as they are about books. But, more importantly perhaps, it shows that the real benefit of book clubs is the friendship factor – something most members would attest to.

 

Women are the wearers of multiple hats. Job-juggling ‘slashers’, moms, household heads, caregivers and corporate-ladder climbers are just some of these, which leaves very little in the way of free time for ‘me time’. And limited hours for social soirees as well. Hence the value of a book club: an occasion to bring together like-minded friends to catch-up, laugh a lot, drink (a lot if Book Club is to be believed), occasionally discuss books, and, most importantly, provide real support for one another.

 

An article in Psychology Today describes book clubs as a new kind of group therapy where members, bonded by their love of books, get to share their lives and ambitions and learn from each other. Globally, there’s a strong culture of women helping women; something that book clubs – still largely the domain of women – are absolutely ideal environments for. In a time-starved society where it’s difficult to meet people and build real connections, there’s nothing like books and bubbles to bring new and old friends together. If you’re joining a book club for the first time, be prepared to get personal – it’s about sharing stories; the characters’ you read about but mostly your own.

 

Aside from the social factor and intellectual stimulation, book clubs are also great ways to get motivated to actually read something other than work emails. Lija Kresowaty, Content Director at Bookchoice – the ‘Netflix of books’, a monthly book membership service for just R50 – says that incorporating reading as a daily habit has multiple proven benefits. Here are some of the biggest ones:

 

  1. It’s the most effective stress buster. In fact, just six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68%, according to the University of Sussex. That means reading tops the charts as the biggest antidote to stress – beating out listening to music or taking a walk. Now add to this wine and book club banter and you have a winning formula.

 

  1.  Reading increases longevity. This may sound tenuous but Yale’s study of 3600 men and women found book readers (those reading for as little as 30-minutes per day over several years) tended to live a whole two years longer than non-readers. Which kind of makes sense when you consider the effect of reading on stress.

 

  1. Reading fuels better brain functioning: When you read a book deeply (no skim reading) your brain starts thinking critically and making connections, which catalyses neural networks that bring about quicker thinking.

 

  1. It makes you a nicer person: Apparently, reading builds empathy and emotional intelligence. Two attributes that’ll also be boosted by numerous hours spent supporting other book club members. One even spends a few days or weeks “getting into character” and walking in someone else’s shoes.

 

  1.  And it makes you sound impressive: Aside from busting out words like ‘sesquipedalian’ (look it up) next book club, an extensive vocab is actually one of the biggest antidotes to cognitive decline, according to the University of Santiago de Compostela.

 

Convinced you need to start a book club? Here are some top tips to get you started:

 

  • Decide what kind of club you want to start/join: Are you more attracted to a book club with a wine penchant or a wine club with a book penchant? In all seriousness, it’s good to establish how seriously you want to take book discussions from the start.
  • Start inviting friends – and friends of friends: Try and broaden your network to include new faces to bond with over books. However, definitely put a cap on it, so that there’s room for everyone to get comfortable, and time for everyone to get a word in (especially since book clubs are notorious for a few loudmouths taking over!)
  • Consider how you’re going to get new books into the club: Are you all going to read the same thing? Is the monthly host going to choose the title everyone reads? Is everyone going to contribute a monthly fee to the kitty for new books? Will you use an affordable membership model like Bookchoice so everyone gets the same titles but there’s different genres to accommodate all members? Set some rules from the get go.
  • Iron out the logistics: How often will you meet? Will you rotate to different member’s houses? How will you deal with lost/ damaged books? Communicate this to all members upfront.

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