Once every month, we’ll share the motivation and passion that drives one book club — it could be yours! — from across the globe. These are the people who have combined the solitary pleasure of reading a book with the joy of sharing, discussing, and debating it in a social setting. For September’s Book Club Spotlight, say hello to Joanne from Toronto, who founded the Matchbook Book Club.
What was the inspiration for starting the Matchbook Book Club?
Three months ago, as I was about to finish university, I went looking for a book club in Toronto that shared the same passion for books and wanted to create something more from what we read through fun trips or activities, and where discussions in meetings would have the charm and feel of a literary salon. So when nothing arose, I decided to pursue a book club that would have such attributes. Little did I know that many shared the same sentiment! As well, I wanted the book club to be inspirational, defining what we think and imagine in old world charisma within modern times. Our motto is inspired by the words of the English poet John Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
To meet a variety of wonderful individuals right here in my city, who share the same passion for books and have amazing ideas to bring forth during meetings, has helped to further shape my outlook of life. It’s such a remarkable feeling.
Who are the members of your club? How did you come to know each other?
We have a wide range of members from various parts of Toronto, but we also have someone from as far as Australia interested in our book club. She keeps updated through our email newsletters and takes part in discussions on our blog! Some are friends I have known in university, at work, or those who contacted me from seeing the Facebook page, blog, or Twitter account. As well, in the earlier days, I posted the book club in the Penguin Book Club newsletter.
Our members include: Jennifer, Shirley, Barbara, Ifhtia, John, JoAnne, Shalabh, Nathalie, Anila, Sonya, Veronica, Lydia, Michele, Alia, Khadija, Shemeena, Thuvaraga, and Candida.
How does your group select each book? Is there specific criteria?
The kinds of books we read covers all sorts of genres and in a broader sense, aim to look at subjects that are noteworthy, touch our hearts, and provide a greater understanding of the world around us. What I do is handpick five interesting titles whose recommendations either come from my favourite bookstores, such as Indigo and Nicholas Hoare, from publishers, or titles I come across personally that I feel would be ideal and would fit the sentiments of our book club.
At our meetings, everyone has the opportunity to read the synopsis of each title and vote on which will be our pick of the month! At the same time, everyone has the chance to voice titles they feel would be ideal for the book club. During certain months, I add an interesting twist and make it themed. In July, it was mystery-themed and so our pick was a classic: Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. For the month of September, the theme will be “the Nostalgic Romantic,” and for October, in light of Halloween, the theme will be “Wonderstruck Noir.”
Do you have a unique way of preparing for a book club meeting?
I love to plan and organize. In fact, I love to make lists of things to do should my memory fail me! I have a Moleskine notebook especially for the book club, which I fill with ideas for our meetings and trips. I collect a variety of interesting discussion questions that can further branch out into a broader subject matter, allowing more space for people to put in their thoughts. In addition, the ability to ensure positive energy to bring into the meeting plays a great role.
Do you incorporate food, films, field trips, or other bonus features into your meetings?
Most definitely! In fact, our upcoming meeting involves discussing our current selection, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. We are all going to the cinema to see the film before our meeting.
During our last meeting (for Murder on the Orient Express), we had light snacks and incorporated a murder mystery game called “Poirot Investigates.” It involves each member picking a character by chance, one secretly being the murderer, and whoever selects Poirot has to investigate each member. I happened to be Poirot, and my conclusion about whom the murderer was turned out to be wrong! Regardless, the winner received a small prize.
My very first intention was to also include fun trips within the book club, such as picnics on the Toronto Islands, visits to botanical gardens, or other fun events. As autumn is underway, I hope to include trips to places like the apple orchard, as well as fun crafts like making leaf lanterns.
If you could invite any author (or even just any person) to join one of your meetings, who would it be and why?
Without a doubt, Arthur Conan Doyle. I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, along with many of the others members of the book club. It would be such an honour for Doyle to sit in with us, discuss our readings, and allow us to pick his brain. Oh the endless questions I would ask!
Of all the books your club has selected, which is your favourite? (And do you have another favourite book that hasn’t been read by your club?)
To be quite honest, all the books we have read so far (The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Help) have been exceptionally lovely in their own way. There is a favourite book of mine that hasn’t been read by our club, but was within the selections: Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs. It’s a refreshing and captivating read. One can’t help but desire to have a bit of Maisie in all of us.
To be featured in a future Book Club Spotlight, email email@example.com with a brief description of your club and what makes it stand apart from the rest.