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Who goes to book clubs?

By / July 6, 2009



Who makes time to go to a book club these days? More and more fiction authors. Joshua Henkin, author of "Matrimony" and "Swimming Across the Hudson," has visited more than 175 book groups discussing one of his novels.

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He's not alone. The Daily Beast reported last week that Adriana Trigiani ("Lucia, Lucia" and "Very Valentine") has visited an average of  two to three book clubs a week since 2000. Chris Bohjalian ("Skeletons at the Feast" and "Double Bind") expects to talk to 120 book groups this year. Khaled Hosseini ("The Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns") allegedly "took a year off and went to every book group he could."

It's a powerful marketing tool.  “The only thing that’s going to save publishing is book clubs,” Mickey Pearlman, an author, editor, and professional book-club facilitator, told the Daily Beast. (As Henkin points out, when he visits 175 book clubs, he's guaranteed 1,750 book sales.)

But for some authors it's also an intriguing glimpse into the lives of others. “Fiction writers are gossips," points out Henkin. "What fiction writer doesn’t want to be invited into a stranger’s living room?”

But not all book clubs take place in someone's living room. The Boston Globe also had a great piece this weekend on a book club for homeless readers, founded by an attorney who struck up a friendship with a homeless man he passed each morning on the Boston Common. They began to chat – about sports and about books.

One day the attorney shared a book ("Water for Elephants") with his new friend. The enthusiastic reader passed the book around to several of the other homeless people on the Common. It gave the attorney an idea and soon a new book club was born. You can see a video of the group, which meets in a Beacon Hill church on Tuesday mornings, here.

According to the Globe, a new nonprofit group, the Oasis Coalition, is now planning to replicate the group and to create dozens of similar groups for the homeless citywide.

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