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Book Clubs: Reconnecting with the fundamentally familiar, yet radically different, world we live in through the escape of novels

The impact of the international Coronavirus pandemic has been multi-faceted, and different for each person. Though our responses to the virus and personal experiences are varied, each of us is faced with an alteration of what it means to be in community. To many, community includes the circle of people they spend the majority of their time with. Now, physical and social distance has left many feeling isolated, lonely, and disconnected from the general population. This phenomenon comes with the paradox of experiencing this moment, to the international level, together.

As we navigate this changed world, each of us must come to terms with what ‘community’ means to us, individually and together. For some, this new community can be found in the virtual world. For others, this is simply not enough and masked, distanced, interactions can be helpful in developing this new form of communication. For many, a combination of the two allows us to manage the very human need for connection. However, these interactions may not leave us fulfilled and satisfied in our needs; craving more and yet still feeling the staggering emptiness of increased time alone in an increasingly interconnected world.

Looking for new and revisiting past ways to connect, many have turned to synchronized book clubs. Novels and poetry have long offered a way for people to distract and escape reality for a bit while allowing our lust for a somewhere, anywhere else to roam free. By reading together book clubs allow us to find the sense of community and fellowship we are craving, while offering a brief escape from the monotony and isolation of social distance.

There are many ways to accomplish this, and many communities adjusting to the new world we live in through book clubs. Spotify has begun offering synchronized listening sessions for people who prefer audiobooks and podcasts to the paper print version. These sessions can be accessed by clicking on the audio you would like to listen to, and finding the speaker icon at the bottom left of the screen. Here you can click “Start Session” to send an invite to others to listen together.

Those who prefer the feel of pages turning and smell of the glued and woven binding can join a group who reads apart, and discusses together, via Zoom. Groups such as Noname Book Club, created by the artist Noname, offers bi-monthly sessions to discuss the affectionately named “reading materials for the homies”, discussing post-colonial theory and novels/poetry, alike. This club reserves space for people of color interested in joining and can be found on Twitter, Instagram, or their website nonamebooks.com .

Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf offers books which discuss themes of race, gender, and justice, and holds discussion on the platform Goodreads.

The Deviant’s Book Club, organized by Dr. Eric Cervini, queer historian, offers a monthly read with associated discussions to break down the readings and discuss them publicly via Instagram.

Lehigh Valley Humanists offers a monthly book recommendation, Zoom discussion meetings, and guest speakers with the authors of books read. More information for this group can be found at meetup.com/Lehigh-Valley-Humanists/events/ and plans to be held in person once the threat of Coronavirus has waned.

All of these clubs can help us, Students, Faculty and Family of Eastern, to reconnect with this ancient and radically revisited way to commune with people geographically and physically distanced from us. This issue is not a new one, but rather an adjustment to this moment we live in, and a revisiting of the way we exist together. As we approach this new semester, and navigate finding ways to be alone, while together, and occupy ourselves apart from our studies, book clubs can make a world of difference in our ability to reconnect.

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