Your Club in Lights: The Toronto-Based No-Longer-Has-an-Official-Name Book Club

  • July 3, 2014

A look at an interesting book club and how it is they do what they do.

Your Club in Lights: The Toronto-Based No-Longer-Has-an-Official-Name Book Club

Your club’s name: We used to call ourselves “The New Book Club” to differentiate it from another club that several members belonged to. That was at least 16 years ago. And now, we don’t have a name at all. But if I were to make up a name, it might be “The Challenge Book Club,” because we love to challenge ourselves with the books we select, or “The Working Women’s Book Club,” to reflect our origins as a group of working women with a keen interest in social and intellectual evenings.

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

How long you’ve been around: Sixteen years. The composition of the group has changed over the years although four of us have been involved since the inception. I’m one of the four original members.

How many members: Our group is 13 strong, but at times, only a small group gathers (and the discussions are just as lively).

Book you’re currently reading: We break for the summer and have just completed our organizing meeting for the 2014/2015 season. Coming up for September is The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray, a well-known Canadian author of historical nonfiction. In October, we’ll be reading The Yellow Birds by Kevin Power. A complete list of books for this coming season can be found on A Writer of History.

Book you last read: In May, we read Girl Reading by Katie Ward, which earned significant praise as a debut novel and is briefly summarized as “Seven portraits. Seven artists. Seven girls and women reading.” If you’re interested in the discussion we had, I posted a brief summary on my blog.

Since your inception, the book that has generated the strongest (good, bad, or otherwise) reaction: For a group that has been meeting so long, this is an impossible question to answer! Interestingly, while we do read books that prove to be disappointing, we still have incredibly robust discussions about such books. And the group is often polarized: Several members will love a given book, and several others won’t like it at all. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai are examples of such polarizing books.

The secret to your club’s success: We choose a range of books: fiction and nonfiction, memoir and short stories, historical and present-day. We’ve even done poetry and plays. We select books that will stretch us to think, books that we might not normally purchase if left to our own devices. Part of the secret to success is in choosing the right books and to that end we have a rule that whatever books you recommend for our June selection meeting, you must have already read them. The host is responsible for guiding the discussion and usually begins with some background on the book or the author. The host also ensures that everyone has a chance to weigh in with opinion and encourages dissenting voices to speak up. As a final point, we have become friends and as such we respect one another and seem to relish hearing opinions different from our own.

[Answers provided by club member Mary Tod.]

Special offer for book clubs: Purchase 8-20 copies of M.K. Tod’s historical novel UNRAVELLED: Two Wars. Two Affairs. One Marriage for the discounted price of $10 per copy, shipping included for the U.S. and Canada. Contact the author at [email protected].

Should your club’s name be in lights? Leave a comment below or send an email to [email protected] and tell us about it!


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