East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Setting up a reading group

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This might be the first post in a series…

Something’s moving, and I’ve been asked to set up a reading group.
The original idea was to have me do a writing workshop, but then it was judged too complicated, and therefore they fell back on a reading group I could set up for the local administration. For free, because there is no money for culture is the local mantra.
And despite my current dire financial straits, I thought, why not?

reading group

After all, I love books, I like talking about books, I like meeting people… as long as they provide me with a place to do it, it’s not a chore, for me, it’s fun.
And who knows, might be the start of something for which money can be found.

So, I put down a quick note about what you need to set up a reding club.
It’s a very bare-bones, personal recipe, something I improvised – based on my experience – to keep my contact hooked and try to actually get the thing on the road instead of just keep discussing the possibility.

a . find a venue

Local library or bookshop is usually the ideal choice, but a lot of local administrations have their conference rooms, ditto the parish. The place should be easily accessible, with ample parking space, cool in the summer and warm in winter.
Also, check that there are no problems with the local fire department and that you get chairs enough for everyone.

b . arrange for refreshments

A coffee machine would be wonderful (especially in winter) while a cooler box with a few bottles of water and soft drinks might work great in the summertime.
Biscuits, sweets, and chocolates are also a good idea.

… oh, but I was forgetting… there is no money for culture… we’ll have to hope the participants are willing to contribute a bottle or a home-made pie.

c . choose a mode

I have three styles of reading group that might be viable

. book mode – we chose a title, and that’s the book we’ll be reading and discussing this season. I would probably suggest The Pickwick Papers, but the problem here is that anyone not interested in Dickens would probably shun the readings. Tarzan of the Apes would also be a nice choice, and one destined for failure hereabouts. Doing a reading group on the Harry Potter books or The Lord of the Rings would be a smash success with a certain section of the public. And what I’d really love to do would be to set up a reading group on Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life or Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

. genre mode – we decide this season we’ll do, say, mystery. A different short story every week – Conan Doyle, Christie, Sayers, Chandler, Hammett… This sort of thing provides variety, and can branch out in a number of interesting directions. This one would be my mode of choice, all things considered.

. theme mode – we choose a theme (the sea, for instance, or travel in foreign parts, or what not), and then every participant brings in his or her favorite book on the theme, and we read excerpts, discuss differences and what not. This one is absolutely great if the participants love reading (but why be here otherwise?) and want to discover new titles and authors. It might not be the best choice for a first-time event.

And there you are.
Set a time and a date for the first meeting, arrange for a calendar with the participants.
You can also set up a Facebook group and, say, a Telegram channel.

… and of course, I am open to further suggestions, so  please use the comments.

My quick, off-the-cuff proposal was greeted with some diffidence.
Won’t it be a snobbish thing, basically old ladies sitting in circle talking books, I was asked.

Well, I said, I could set up Thunderdome events instead.

Excitement would be granted, but I wouldn’t do it for free.
And as we know, there’s no money for culture.

But at this point what I am thinking is – if working for free is the name of the game, then why should I set up a reading group for somebody else?
For free, and without any guarantee, I can start looking around for sponsors, maybe a bookstore, and then set up my own thing.
Once again, suggestions welcome.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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