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ON THE SHELVES: Running an online or ‘Bubble’ Book Club?

Contributed
Contributed

In February 2020, I was fortunate enough to participate in a CBC Radio “Crosstalk” program with Ramona Dearing in which she posed this question to listeners: what books from Newfoundland and Labrador would you recommend for book clubs?

The avid readers of our province did not disappoint. They called in and enthusiastically recommended a range of titles.

While much has changed in the eleven months since then, interest in local books, reading and book clubs (albeit in alternative formats) have not.

Under the “Info Guides” section of N.L. Public Libraries’ website (www.nlpl.ca) you will find a Book Clubs feature that brings together advice and resources for running online book clubs, including tips for remote meetings and information on our monthly Book Club Central title, available for simultaneous access.

Our physical Book Club Kits-To-Go are still available for borrowing, either in-house during restricted opening hours or by curbside delivery.

They are listed, along with descriptions and a catalogue link, on our Book Clubs feature. We are delighted that our revamped collection of Newfoundland and Labrador fiction and non-fiction Kits are highlighted with their own lists, making them easier to find for fans of local books and authors.

Revamped, you ask?

This brings us back to February 2020 and the suggestions made by Crosstalk listeners. While we have continued to add newly published books (especially novels) to our N.L. Book Club Kits-To-Go collection, I was struck by the number of recommendations for non-fiction books, such as histories, biographies and memoirs.

There was also interest in seeing kits featuring older Newfoundland and Labrador titles: classics that continue to resonate with readers.

With that in mind, we have added a number of new N.L. Book Club kits to our collection. We have updated existing kits with new author information and discussion questions as needed. Our N.L. Book Club Kits-To-Go are ready for the reading public, freshly branded and available for borrowing throughout the province. It’s worth noting that while our kits contain ten copies of each title, they can be used with smaller bubble-friendly groups as well.

Two new non-fiction kits are Cassie Brown’s “Death on the Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster of 1914” and “On the High Seas: The Diary of Captain John W. Froude, Twillingate, 1863-1939.”

The first is a classic of N.L. history familiar to those of us who attended high school in our province, as it was a required text for many years. If you reluctantly encountered this book as a teenager, it is worth revisiting, and discussing, from an adult perspective. The second is a lesser-known but fascinating book published almost 40 years ago.

It records the experience of a crew member working on ocean-going schooners. Like Abel Rogers in Jim Payne’s beloved song, “Wave over Wave,” Froude “sailed the world over” and this book contains his reflections, written in verse, on that life.

Other non-fiction N.L. Book Club kits include Linden MacIntyre’s “The Wake: The Deadly Legacy of a Newfoundland Tsunami,” Elizabeth Penashue’s “I Keep the Land Alive,” and Helen Porter’s “Below the Bridge: Growing Up on the Southside.”

Novels continue to be popular choices for book clubs.

We have kits for many N.L. Book Award (Fiction) winners, such as “The Boat People” by Sharon Bala, “We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night” by Joel Thomas Hynes, and “Come, Thou Tortoise” by Jessica Grant.

There are multiple kits featuring the work of local literary stars Bernice Morgan, Michael Crummey, Lisa Moore, and Wayne Johnston, among others.

Last spring and summer, in support of online book club meetings and discussions, N.L. Public Libraries offered unlimited simultaneous digital access to a variety of recent local titles, including “A Roll of the Bones” by Trudy Morgan-Cole, “We All Will Be Received” by Leslie Vryenhoek, “Being Mary Ro” by Ida Linehan Young, and “The Forbidden Dreams of Betsy Elliott” by Carolyn Parsons. Susie Taylor’s “Even Weirder Then Before,” the featured title in May, was discussed on the CBC St. John’s Morning Show’s On-Air Book Club. All of these titles are available now as N.L. Book Club Kits-To-Go.

Last but not least, there are kits available for past N.L. Reads winners “Most Anything You Please” by Trudy Morgan-Cole and “The Sign on My Father’s House by Tom Moore, as well as for short-listed N.L. Reads titles.

This is a good time to remind you of N.L. Reads 2021 and the titles competing to be named this year’s “must-read” book: “Crow Gulch” by Douglas Walbourne-Gough, “The Woman in the Attic” by Emily Hepditch, “Almost Feral” by Gemma Hickey, and “One Good Reason: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery, Music and Love” by Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon.

Go to the N.L. Reads link at www.nlpl.ca to find out more about this year’s titles, browse our Think outside the Book feature, watch author and reader advocate videos, and cast your vote. Voting is open until noon NST, Feb. 26, 2021, with the winner announced on Monday, March 1.

New Year is a time of hope, and for book clubs this includes the hope of once again sitting with friends, sharing food and drink, discussing and debating the work of our talented local writers. In the meantime, whether meeting online or in socially distanced “bubble” book clubs or paused for the pandemic, don’t forget the range of amazing N.L. Book Club Kits-To-Go, fiction and non-fiction, old and new that are ready and waiting for you at N.L. Public Libraries.

Bonnie Morgan is N.L. Collections and Services librarian with N.L. Public Libraries.

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