A New Kind of Book Club

Sarah Body & Soul, Slider Leave a Comment

Anyone who is anyone has a book club, these days.  Oprah, of course, seemed to jump start this quaint sense of community—IRL or through TV and social media.  Her acolyte Reese Witherspoon has a popular book club, as does former first daughter and current NBC host Jenna Bush Hager.  Although I’ve briefly flirted with a real time book club with my gal pals over the years, I’ve refashioned this idea in my mind in the hopes of accomplishing a couple of goals, thinning out my collection of physical books, while revisiting their content and sharing much-loved words with friends.

For many years, I had the luxury of sharing my then-boyfriend’s large Upper East Side apartment.  One of the things I appreciated about Istvan was his devotion to the written word. (By the way, his name has been changed as he is completely social media phobic.)  His apartment had plenty of bookshelves, and I happily colonized them with my books on history, philosophy, religion, ceremonies and rituals, crafting, and such.  When our relationship ended several years ago, I found myself in smaller and smaller apartment spaces.   My hard copy books ended up in storage, where I paid a princely (or princessly) sum each month to house them.  I made a personal commitment to try to only buy digital versions of new books, when at all possible.  But what of all those wonderful books that have been in storage?  The best idea I could come up with was purchasing digital copies of those that were available and to send my hard copies off into the universe.

Turning to my social media community, I asked about worthy recipients of my beloved books.  Folks suggested university book drives, the Housing Works bookshop, prisons, and much more.  All sounded great, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to ship large boxes of books about town or the world.  

And, so this idea came to me.   What if before sending a hard copy out into the universe, I revisited its content, drafting up a few thoughts about the author’s pearls of wisdom.  I would offer up the book to be sent to a like-minded friend, again via social media.  In exchange for my sending the book, he or she would get back to me—and any readers checking in—to share thoughts about the publication.  These are not heavy books calling for time-consuming academic critiques, but were quick reads that might stimulate ideas among my thoughtful friends.   Ideally, the first recipient of the book would, when finished, pass it along to another.  A chain letter of virtue!

Randomly, I picked up A Grateful Heart, by the prolific writer M.J. Ryan.   The book, now 15 years old, is a simple compilation of bits of wisdom and gratitude, organized around a theme of the seasons.   Some bits are from sacred texts, many are not.  Here are just a couple that I enjoyed:

Hold on to what is good
            Even if it is a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe
            Even if it is a tree which stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do
            Even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to life
            Even when I have gone away from you.

Pueblo verse

Tonight we reflect on a paradox:
Water wears away rock
Spirit overcomes force
The weak will undo the mighty.
May we learn to see things backwards, inside out, and upside down.

Adapted from the Tao Te Ching So, here is the plan: 

I’d like to send this book to a friend who’d be interested in perusing it.  Once they have had a chance to read, I’d ask that they send me a note along with their thoughts and feelings about it.  The goal would be for that person to then share the book with someone he or she knows….and so on…and so on…and so on.

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