From one book lover to many others

Our Monitor Facebook book group is utterly vibrant – enthusiastic readers sharing book tips with one another, asking and answering book questions of all kinds. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Brittany Banks lies on a towel reading in New York's Central Park.

Here at the Monitor we feel as if we know a lot about you, our readers. We know that you’re well informed. We know that you have a global vision. We understand that you tend to have deep concerns about social justice and a fundamental belief that there are answers to the most seemingly complex of problems.

And oh yes – something else we know about our readers: You love books. 

Your enthusiasm for books manifests itself in your responses to our books section and also in the large numbers of hits that we get on our website whenever we post a story about books.

And if we needed any further evidence of your interest, we would have found it in The Books Beat, the book group we recently launched on our Facebook page. 

Marketers told us that we’d be doing well if we attracted as many as 400 members in the first month. Instead, we got almost 1,000 immediately. The site is utterly vibrant – enthusiastic readers sharing book tips with one another, asking and answering book questions of all kinds. 

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that our readers love to spend time with books. We here on staff are pretty much the same. For proof of that we need look no further than our in-house Monitor book club.

Once a month a group of us gathers at lunchtime to discuss our most recent pick. Sometimes we coordinate a shared lunch to reflect the book’s setting. (We had Indian food for “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” by Katherine Boo, and everyone loved the Australian pavlova one of our staffers made for our discussion of “In a Sunburned Country,” by Bill Bryson.) But other times we’re content simply to be lunching out of our own plastic containers and brown paper bags. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the discussion. And of course, the books.

We try to alternate fiction and nonfiction picks. We’ve had our out-and-out successes. (Just about everyone loved “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles.) We’ve had our controversies. (Some found “West with the Night,” by Beryl Markham, to be dated and insensitive while others loved the book’s language and its atmospherics.) 

And we’ve had our debates about what kind of reading is most enjoyable. (Some found the use of dialect in “Sea of Poppies,” by Amitav Ghosh, burdensome while others enjoyed the rich history and global feel of this selection; some found “The Devotion of Suspect X,” by Keigo Higashino, to be an engaging intellectual puzzle while others complained that it felt cold and lacked credible characters.)

But where we come together without debate is in our love of the reading process and the chance to share our enthusiasm with others. Most of us consider book club days a high point of the month. Some staffers even rearrange their vacation plans to prevent missing a session.

Does this sound a bit like you? If so, there’s a good reason you belong to the Monitor family. 

Please feel free to write us and tell us what you’re enjoying for summer reading this year. Who knows? Your pick could be our next book club selection. 

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.