- Michaela Schwartz is a writer/producer living in New York. Originally from Boston, she graduated from Barnard College with a bachelor’s degree in Film and Gender Studies.
- In September 2018, her friend Leah created a small book club for friends in New York.
- Fast forward to the pandemic: the eight members of book club are scattered around the Americas, and now Zoom in to discuss their picks.
- And since they no longer have to deal with commuting, the book club now hosts weekly game nights
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In September 2018, my friend Leah founded a book club with a small group of our friends in New York City. We met monthly (give or take a couple of weeks depending on the length of the book), rotating the location of book club and who selected the book.
Fast forward to summer 2020: Book club is still going strong, with eight members spread across the Americas. Instead of cuddling in an NYC apartment, we meet over Zoom, calling in from Maine, New York, Washington DC, North Carolina, and Peru. The very pure and simple joy of hanging out with friends regularly has really grounded my sense of the passage of time during this s—storm, and I am so grateful for my nerdy group of pals.
Our first read of quarantine was “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” by Ocean Vuong, which I purchased online at Bookshop.org. When I posted an Instagram story of all of us on Zoom holding up our copies of the book, Ocean Vuong himself reposted it on his story and added crowns to our heads. That adrenaline rush lasted all the way until the next time we met for game night.
Next was “The Underground Railroad,” by Colson Whitehead, read on my Kindle from 2012. Truly could not have made it through the early stages of the pandemic without access to Libby via the New York Public Library.
We soon realised that without the barrier of having to schlep an hour or more on the subway to each other’s apartments, we could hang out more often. Thus began weekly game nights of Codenames and Drawasaurus. If you haven’t been playing online games with your friends regularly during this pandemic, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Winning a round of Codenames gives me such a dopamine hit that I can actually sleep soundly for a night.
“Good Omens,” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, was sent to me by a fellow bookclubber’s mum, along with a handmade mask. I love the United States Postal Service.
When it was my turn to pick the book, I chose “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,” by Olga Tokarczuk. According to our meeting minutes from that night, dutifully taken by Secretary Emma (Book Club takes itself very seriously), “The book received ratings between 3.5 and four stars. The narration was well done and interesting. Some thought it would be more of a page turner.”
I listened to “The Dutch House,” by Ann Patchett while farming in Maine. Tom Hanks narrates this audiobook, so even though I hated the book (sorry to Ms. Patchett!), it was nice to spend some time with my friend Tom.
“In the Dream House,” by Carmen Maria Machado has been one of my favourite books we’ve read in book club thus far. The pure joy of falling in love with a book and discussing it with a group of friends never gets old!
“The Glass Hotel,” by Emily St. John Mandel was our most recent pick, and we convened this week to review. The novel was met with mixed reviews, but we all agreed that Ponzi schemes are endlessly fascinating, especially discussed over red wine with friends.
The pandemic has meant more time with book club, even as we’ve scattered across countries, lost and started jobs, and dealt with the many challenges these last few months have brought into our lives. I know that moving forward, no matter where I end up, I can mark the passage of time and stay sane with a little help from my book club.
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