Book Club: A Great Idea for Rotary Fellowship

Do you love to read? I’ve been surprised to learn that not everybody does, and in fact, for many its a chore. But for me, reading has always been a big part of my life. Nowadays I read almost exclusively for entertainment (the years of reading investment research certainly don’t count) and I divide my reading time into “serious reading” and “fun” reading. In fact, over the years I’ve offered book reviews here at Ready, Fire, Aim when I found something I thought was particularly relevant to Rotary.

But lately I’ve found something even more fun than reading. And that is discussing the books I’ve read with others who also love to read. I’ve learned that these discussions tend to be informed, rational, interesting, educational, and an absolute hoot. And guess who I’ve been discussing these books with? That’s right, the Rotarians in our new Rotary Book Club. [Full disclosure: We haven’t come up with a pithy name for the club yet so we seem to be sticking with the endlessly creative name of “book club.”] I did a little research to see if Rotary International has a book club fellowship, since literacy is pretty big on our collective “to-do” list, but I didn’t see one on the list.

If you Google book clubs, or ask the many millions of folks who belong to a book club, you will find that there are endless ways of organizing your club. Don’t feel obligated to do it our way, but just in case you’re interested, here’s how we set up ours:

We meet once a month on the first Tuesday of the month. This implies we are reading twelve books during the year. The meetings are hosted by yours truly at my home with participants gathering around 6:30PM. Discussions usually go from 7PM to 9PM.

We currently have ten official members in the club, but usually get six or seven attendees for any one meeting. Our Rotary club has 50 members or so and even though we are constantly asking others to join us, for the rest of the club a monthly reading assignment just isn’t their cup of tea. We think ten is a good number to manage a robust conversation. ( I have been reliably informed that if we changed the club to the “bourbon and book club,” membership would soar.) If you have more interest in your club you might want to split up the groups somehow. I leave that to you.

Each member gets to recommend a book when it’s his or her turn. Other book clubs decide on books in a much more democratic fashion with members voting on each month’s reading selection. For us, so far at least, it’s worked that a member recommends the book with the proviso that they’ve already read it. If the group hates the book (it hasn’t happened yet) it may be that the member’s choice of books next time around will be more carefully vetted. Anyway, we think this reduces the risk of reading a clunker book because everyone is time constrained and our book reading time is precious.

So far the book list has been very eclectic and I think we are getting a little more ambitious in our book selections as we’ve gone along. Our first four books were nonfiction but the last two were fiction, or at least historical fiction. So far we’ve read:

Hidden Figures, The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly

The Gatekeepers, How the White House chiefs of Staff Define every Presidency; by Chris Whipple.

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now, by Dr. Gordon Livingston

Factfulness, Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling,

Beneath a Scarlett Sky, by Mark Sullivan, A story about a forgotten hero of the Italian resistance during World War II.

And our current reading assignment – Educated, by Tara Westover

The person who recommends the book leads the discussion. That usually entails asking the group questions about the book. Everyone has their own style as discussion leader, but we’ve found it’s a pretty easy job because everyone is eager to join in and share their views. The conversation is wonderful!

Snacks in the form of a bottle of white, a bottle of red, and a 12-pack of beer, along with inexpensive munchies, are provided by the person who is “on deck” with the next month’s book.

So that’s pretty much it. If you are looking for a creative way to stimulate fellowship in your Rotary Club, to be able to offer another option to new members to get engaged with Rotary, and to actually do something to promote the 5th part of the Four Way Test (Have Fun!….but you knew that), then I highly recommend you start a book club in your Rotary Club.

Happy reading everyone and even happier fellowship!

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