Book Clubs and Brew Pubs
If you’ve read any great books lately, you probably immediately wanted to talk about what you read with friends. But that can be hard if you’re new to the area, or if you just don’t have friends who have read the same books that you have.
Many people in the Capital region are setting out to solve that problem by forming book clubs.
These aren’t your ordinary book clubs, though. From meeting in bars to reading about vampires, these are groups of friends or soon-to-be friends who get together to socialize, eat, drink and discuss some reading along the way.
And don't worry if you're not a complete bibliophile. For at least some of these clubs, the books are only part of the fun.Prose and Pinots
Long-time Lansing resident and sometime-Capital Gains contributor
, Gabrielle Johnson, started her book club, Prose and Pinots, after realizing that she and her friends would often read books and discuss them with one another, but only on a one-to-one basis. The book club became a way to get together with her friends.
“The prose is an excuse to get together and drink wine,” Johnson says. “We meet for up to four hours and talk about the book for maybe 45 minutes,” she says. Then, the conversation moves on to anything from news items to celebrity gossip.
Johnson, who has lived in the Lansing area for much of her life, thinks the book club is a great way to grow new and deepen existing friendships. She's known one member of Pinots and Prose since sixth grade, but others have come as friends of friends. Currently the group includes a wide variety of people: one law student, a state employee, a professor, a photographer, an aesthetician, a librarian, an attorney and a baker. Brew Pub Book Club
One local book club set out to be different from the very start. The Brew Pub Book Club
, sponsored by the Capital Area District Library
(CADL), meets the first Thursday of every month at the Michigan Brewing Company
in Downtown Lansing.
“While there are great book clubs that meet at the library, that's not where everyone wants to go,” says book club organizer and CADL librarian Sara Doherty. “Not everyone wants to meet in a board room.”
After Doherty decided on the location for the Brew Pub Book Club, she launched an outreach effort that has included posting fliers at the library and at the bar as well as extensive online outreach through sites like Facebook, Good Reads
, and Twitter, which has been particularly helpful in recruiting new readers.
The Michigan Brewing Company has been very welcoming, says Doherty. “They have a good atmosphere for this sort of group” she says. “We originally met up front where there are lots of couches, which was a really good atmosphere for a book club. It really takes the pressure off—everyone's eating, everyone's had a couple of drinks.”
The Brew Pub Book Club has grown so much that they now split into several groups for discussions. There are graduate students, professors and young people who work Downtown. Many heard about the club by word of mouth and showed up.
The reading selections for the Brew Pub Book Club are not just your typical beach reads. Doherty picked the first three books, which included Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer-prize winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
, Louise Erdich’s multigenerational environmental story set on a North Dakota tribal reservation, The Plague of Doves
, and Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin
Now the group is selecting its own readings by vote — the next book will be China Mieville’s The City & The City
, which pays homage to great crime writers like Raymond Chandler
. Beyond Books
Many of Lansing’s book clubs are formed by communities of people who are setting out to create change, whether in national and international policy or in the education curriculum of local schools.
A group called LATTICE
— an acronym for Linking all Types of Teachers to International Cross-cultural Education — is made up of graduate students and professors in the area. The goal is to find good, authentic, children's multicultural books that might be good selections for reading lists in schools.
Another local librarian, Mary Hennessey, coordinates both the LATTICE book club and the International Book Club, which is open to the community at large. The International Book Club looks to read first-hand accounts of people who have immigrated to the United States, or contemporary stories from around the world.
Local bookstores are happy to support the movement. Both the Eastside Lansing favorite Everybody Reads
and local, family-owned bookstore Schuler Books
offer discounts on book club selections.
Everybody Reads offers their community room for small group meetings, and donates 20 percent of the shop’s sales of book club books to nonprofit organizations. Schuler’s currently lists nearly 30 different local reading groups on their web site
, and will even help you set up a new reading group with an online form and discounts.
All of these book clubs have at least one thing in common: for their members, they make Lansing feel like a home, with good friends, good books and good food. And libraries and brewpubs are just the beginning of the variety of locations for meeting (and eating) over good bucks.
I asked Pinot and Prose’s Johnson if she had any advice for those who might want to start a book club, and she had plenty.
“Don’t be insulted if people don’t finish the book,” she says. Bringing food and wine makes the book discussions much more enjoyable. And, she adds, finding hosts has always been really easy — who wouldn’t want to host an evening of good friends and good food?
This is Leslie Wolcott's first article for Capital Gains.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Prose and Pinots
Brew Pub Book Club
Kate Tykocki dives into a Brew Club book
The club sticks to its name at the MI Brewing Company Downtown
Heidi Schroeder discusses the club's book at Prose and Pinots
Book discussion at Brew Pub Book Club
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie