So, I did a crazy thing recently: I started a book club called Lit Lovers. Actually, this has been one half of a dream of mine for a while (the other half of the dream has been to have this “Lit Lovers” Book Club at a café / bar that I would also own and that would be literature-themed).
We just had our first meeting this past Sunday (11/17), and I can say without a doubt that it was a success. In starting Lit Lovers, I gathered a few opinions from close friends and minds of people whom I deeply admire and respect. One of my friends, Nalin, who also has inspired me to really think about self-limiting potential and my ability to go with the flow (you can read about that blog post here), mentioned that he would pay for something like this. To me, this idea was revolutionary. You would pay to be in a book club? Why? (For those of you who don’t know, book clubs are typically not something you pay for in the States, it’s something you go to because you want to.) He explained it to me like this:
“You are giving up your time to organize and plan something like this. You deserve to be paid. Also, by making people pay, it holds them accountable. I know I’m more likely to do something if I’ve paid for it, rather than if I haven’t.”
And, I guess, reflecting on that logic; it’s true. I don’t typically give any of my novels away because I know those who download it for free don’t put it as a priority; they are not invested in it (monetarily), and thus, may be all-around less invested to it.
So, after I came up with a business model on how to structure the club and what it would involve, what value I could give to people who decided to pay money to join, I had to think of the books that we could read. To be accommodating and fair to all, I wanted to gather a wide spread of books from different genres that could appeal to anyone. This is the list I came up with.
Lit Lovers List
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey… In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. With penetrating insights and pointed anecdotes, Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, service, and human dignity — principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates. Genre: Non-fiction
- Atomic Habit – James Clear … No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving—every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results in the rescripting of ourselves. Genre: Non-fiction
- The Alchemist – Paulo Coehlo … We all have a purpose in life. A true potential we must fill. This story is about the journey to complete that with a young shepherd boy, Santiago, as he sets out to find the treasure that he dreamed about. Along the way, he encounters many characters who help him find his way. Genre: Fantasy
- One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez … One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of a mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, alive with unforgettable men and women, and with a truth and understanding that strikes the soul, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a masterpiece of the art of fiction. Genre: Magical Realism
- Lolita – Vladimar Nabokov … a professor under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl named Dolores Haze. As the relationship turns into something very nefarious, the professor begins to control and manipulate her out of jealousy and paranoia. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these? Genre: Romance
- 1984 – George Orwell … George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life—the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language—and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Genre: Dystopian (sci-fi)
The first two non-fiction, self-help books are ones that I have a personal affinity to as of late. They have been monumental books in me overcoming some personal vices and changing my life around. The Alchemist is a fantastic book about finding your purpose and one that has a special place in my heart for a different, rather lugubrious reason. The other three I haven’t read but I know about them and am currently in the process of reading 100 Years of Solitude because it is about to become a Netflix Series; you can find out more about that here.
So, I had a decent array of books to choose from and then I opened the voting for a few days and people got engaged and voted for their book. The winner this month was 1984 by George Orwell with a second-place going to 100 Years of Solitude.
However, a book club was just the beginning.
From the start, I knew that I wanted Lit Lovers to be different than other book clubs. Currently, Suzhou doesn’t have a book club, so the formation of it is already a novelty in itself, but I also know that the literary community is quite strong in Suzhou because I am a part of another group called “Writers in China.” The woman who runs that group is based in Suzhou, and many of the people in that group are Suzhou-based as well. What that group doesn’t have, though, is a dedicated meeting place or time to meet up.
To be honest, this is something that I always relished when I was in the States. I loved going to my critique circles and even in my creative writing workshops in college, the feedback and discussion that certain works posed was fantastic intellectual stimulation. I wanted that again. So, I decided to give Lit Lovers two faces. One face would be the book club. The other face would be a critique circle where aspiring and budding writers can get feedback on their work from other talented writers. Eventually, it will also function as a workshop to discuss craft techniques and give seminars on how we write, why we write and discuss more of the technical pieces of writing. Furthermore, it will be a venue for authors to showcase their work to the public.
Like I mentioned previously, this first meeting was a success. To start, we made an acrostic poem with “Lit Lovers” as the letters used. And then we shared our favorite part from the beginning chapters. Afterward, we began our discussion. You can see the photos below!
Although two were sick to the first meeting, we had a total of 11 people signed up and paid to be the first monthly members of the club and we talked for an hour and a half about the first five chapters of 1984. So far, this book is absolutely fantastic. It’s an eye-opening depiction of what the current state of some countries is like (not going to name names here) and I learned much about the history of those same countries as there are many parallels the author draws upon. What is even more incredible, though, is that this book was written in 1948, more than 70 years ago and it is quite prophetic of the times today.
What it has taught me:
- Plan business models. I had to organize the structure of how it would function from how many times it would meet each week, to when it would meet each week, to the hour allocation for each event each week.
- Never devalue something. I shouldn’t assume people don’t want to pay for something. If you show the value in something, of course, people are going to want to pay for it. In this case, people can meet like-minded individuals, they can read fantastic novels, they commit themselves to literature, and they can gather feedback on any current projects they have in prose or poetry. Great value if you ask me.
- Stay better organized. I am more organized now because I have to prepare questions ahead of time. I hold myself accountable and responsible for knowing the material and being able to discuss it and lead a conversation about it.
- Seize opportunity. Obviously, this is a no-brainer. We should always be seeking and seizing opportunities, but I am very happy about this idea because it is a novel idea (pun intended) here in Suzhou. Years ago, they had this place called The Bookworm but it’s closed down since then, but the literary community hasn’t gone away. There are many artistic people here in Suzhou and that is the type of people I want to associate myself with.
- Go after your dreams. Like I mentioned previously, this has always been a dream of mine here in Suzhou. I am happy that half of it has been met, and the other half, I imagine, could be met sometime in the future rather seamlessly. Who knows who I will meet or where I will go, all I know is that I am excited that I’ve undertaken such an endeavor and is another one of the crazy new things I have done in the past year.
Reflecting on things, I have actually done many new things this past year. Actually, I keep promising a blog post about that, and I will give you that, eventually. For now, I want to bring your mind to focus on a few things.
First, think about and imagine the possibilities around you. What can you do? Whose life can you inspire or touch? What can you create? Second, realize what you want. For me, I’ve realized that I don’t need monetary success; I just want to be an inspiration for others. I want to create something that others can be a part of, a community. That is what I want to build. This is a step in the right direction of that. Also, Lit Lovers really emphasizes my personal motto that I have: “cultivating your talents the write way.”
There is so much we can learn through reading literature and writing it. What have you learned? OF the above books, which book would you vote for? I’m interested in finding out your opinion. Comment below!