dlr Libraries Online Book Club – A pandemic success story!

01 September 2021 / Nuacht Leabharlainne
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This guest blog post has been written by Mary Burnham who facilitates dlr Libraries Online Book club as well as chooses interesting books that tend to generate great discussions.  Follow Mary on FB for more wonderful book recommendations here. 


Reaching out to readers online during a pandemic did not come with a set of detailed instructions in any librarian’s handbook but in May 2020 we (dlr libaries Culture team and I) thought we would give it a go and see if there was an appetite for an Online Book Club discussion delivered via ZOOM. Now, over a year later, we’re delighted to say that our online book club has proven to be a huge success. With over a hundred people registering their interest, our meetings are well attended with between eighteen to twenty-eight members on a given night, everyone having the opportunity to voice their opinions whether good, bad or indifferent. The books are chosen well in advance to give readers time to borrow their copies, or read the e-books online. At one stage during full pandemic lockdown when libraries had to shut their doors, books were posted out, on request, to readers in the locality so that no one was left out.

Meetings are held on the last Wednesday of each month wth a start time of 7.30pm sharp. The Zoom Room is open a few minutes earlier to allow everyone get settled and by 8.30pm we’re usually finished. Each member is invited to speak for a few minutes and when everyone has had their say we have a short reflection on the general consensus before wrapping up for the night.

We have chosen an eclectic mix of books and authors, tasters if you like, of the huge variety on offer in the library. In March this year we were lucky to have not only a superb book to read but a visit by the author who joined us for the evening.  We had a lively discussion after everyone had shared their opinions culminating in Donal Ryan reading a short excerpt from his latest novel, Strange Flowers.

November’s book, This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff was universaly well received with insightful comments all round. This classic memoir was written in 1989 and touched a chord with every single reader. Some members went so far as to rent the 1983 movie based on the book starring Robert de Niro, Ellen Berkin, and a very young Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Readers were evenly divided in June this year by Pulitzer Prize winner, Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Home. Opinions ranged from ‘found it depressing and monotonous’, ‘too much eating and drinking for my liking’, to ‘the more I read, the more I enjoyed it!’ Overall, readers found it a bit of a struggle to get into, greatly appreciated the beauty of the writing, and while some ‘read to the bitter end’, others found it subtle and deeply meaningful. It was a great introduction to a fabulous American writer.

Our July book, Regeneration by Pat Barker, is the first of a trilogy with many of our readers going on to read the second and third in this series. There were many aspects to this book that some found a revelation from the horrors of the First World War, the War Poets, the psychological damage inflicted on the young men and the dehumanising effects of war.

Each book is chosen with care from the length, the style of writing, and the subject matter:
1. Under 300 pages so that everyone has time to finish the book
2. Good quality writing from authors around the world
3. Containing wide ranging topics for discussion such that not everyone is in complete agreement!

May:Staring at Lakes by Michael Harding
June:Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
July: Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement
August: The Salt Path Raynor Wynn
September: Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel
October: The Cow Book by John Connell
November: This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
December: The Paper Lovers by Gerard Woodward

January: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
February: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
March: Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan
April: Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach
May: The Tie that Binds by Kent Haruf
June: Home by Marilynne Robinson
July: Regeneration by Pat Barker
August: The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard
Sept: The Weight of Love by Hilary Fannin

Did you know dlr Libraries has a Book Set collection that holds multiple copies of all of these books, especially for local book clubs that might find useful when choosing for themselves.  And if you are interested in reading along with us, and perhaps joining in the discussion, email libraryculture@dlrcoco.ie for further information.

Mary Burnham
dlr Libraries Online Book Club Facilitator

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