Books are a portal to a million different worlds, and they’ve been the perfect way to keep many of us going through COVID-19. With so much social interaction removed and our travel restricted, books have been the ultimate means to escape, indulge, learn, develop and entertain throughout 2020.
For the one in four Australians that struggle with loneliness, we know books can take on another meaning altogether. They can keep people connected, and one perfect way to extend that connection is with a book club.
In celebration of Book Week in a year like no other, this is what we love about book clubs – from those that have experienced and loved them.
1. It’s the perfect way to meet others, even if you’re shy
71-year-old Susan moved from the United Kingdom to Australia in the middle of the pandemic to be closer to her family. Having left her closest friends behind, and finding it difficult to socialize, she was able to link up with a book club with about 10 people on the Gold Coast – and instantly found herself a new group of friends.
“We meet every month, we go to a Thai restaurant and we have a little talk about the book, along with a lot of eating and a little bit of drinking,” Susan says. “The book club is the reason you get together, but you end up talking about everything! It’s a great night out. Your mental attitude completely changes with something to look forward to in the calendar every month, and you feel so good afterwards, like it was a really positive experience to sit with friendly, like-minded people.”
You might even end up extending beyond the book club. Susan goes for walks and line-dancing with the ladies she’s met: “It all stems from meeting people and putting yourself out there. You might be nervous, but it’s great to make an effort.
2. It gets you reading more
If you’re looking for inspiration to get your head into a book more often, this is the ultimate way to do so. A little accountability in the form of a club can go a long way.
“It encourages me to read more than I would,” confirms Susan. “I read before bed every night and it helps me sleep. I don’t watch TV as much anymore, and it helps to balance my day and my life between different things.”
Not much of a reader, or partially-sighted? The world of audiobooks is an exciting one these days, with apps such as Audible even offering free trials to dip your toe into the water of listening to amazing stories while getting on with other tasks throughout your day.
Or you might like to read novels on your tablet rather than paperback, where you can increase the font size to make it much easier to read.
3. You’ve got plenty of options to choose from
The best thing about books is that there’s something for everyone out there. “We’ve just read ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” Susan says, “and before that, we read ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ and ‘The Bell Jar’. We cover a huge range of genres, something for everyone.”
Susan’s club has linked in with their local library for book club. The library has a selection of sets of ten books available for clubs to order and borrow throughout the year, and the books often include a series of questions at the end for discussion.
The possibilities aren’t limited to the local library, though. Depending on your book club, you might like to take turns selecting the next book to read, or you might like to keep a box of books and pass them around within the group, taking turns reading them accordingly and sharing your individual opinion.
4. You don’t even have to read – or like – the book!
“We all go around and give the book a score out of ten, but it’s very varied,” Susan reports. “Some people just don’t like the book, and don’t get past page 20. Some people give it a nine out of ten, and that’s what we want! We want different opinions.”
Variety is the spice of life, after all, and opinions make book club chat more interesting! Your fellow book club attendees want to know if you found something to be annoying, confusing, fascinating or exciting.
5. Book clubs have also gone virtual
If you’re in an area where your book club can’t meet in person, or you’re not able to leave the house, you can still benefit from a virtual book club – such as the one Feros Care runs through their Virtual Social Centre. 82-year-old Elisabeth uses the Virtual Social Centre to access French lessons, ukulele lessons and now, her favourite, virtual book club.
“I read a lot and, when I joined the Virtual Care Centre, asked if there could be a book club,” Elisabeth explains. “They thought it was a great idea and made it happen – they are so good like that! So now we have a weekly book club and a monthly book club. The weekly one is dedicated to a short, light read and the monthly is longer and more serious. You can join either one, or both if you like!”
Elisabeth has chronic fatigue syndrome and doesn’t always have the energy to go out for coffee with friends, or join the exercise classes she likes to do; thankfully, the virtual book club ensures she can still have company. “I live on my own, and with the tablet, I can interact with other people instead of just lying in bed on my own,” she says. “You can chat to people from all over Australia and you do get to know each other quite well. Really it’s just all about talking about books, and I could do that all day!”
Ready to join a book club? Our top tips are below.
- Ask around. Word of mouth is the perfect way to join a book club, and you may have a friend of a friend who runs one; or your local library may have a spot available in one of theirs.
- Not ready, or not able to join an in-person book club? Check out the Feros Care Virtual Social Centre, an online platform with book club sessions taking place regularly.
- Want to start your own? Connect with your library to gather book suggestions on where to begin, choose a meeting location either online or in person, and ask a friend or two to join you; from there, word will spread!
We know that a well-connected world is our best chance at ending loneliness for good. That’s why, even through the most difficult times, we’re raising awareness of loneliness and tackling it together.
Our Be Someone For Someone initiative offers a range of resources, programs and opportunities to support those that are lonely, or those wanting to help someone who is lonely.