As a writer, I’m gratified to learn that people still love to read books. I don’t care if those books are high-brow National Book Award winners or blush-inducing pulp fiction; the fact that people are willing to read the words that someone else had painstakingly crafted—over what could have been years—is amazingly gratifying.
However, as the average American, I must admit that I don’t care much for reading. Don’t get me wrong; I still buy books—I just don’t read them. Perhaps I will at some point. But right now I just seem to be lining bookshelves with titles that have caught my attention: Tribe of Mentors, Hardcore Twenty-Four, The Bomb Shelter Builders Book, Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution and many, many more.
I think my problem is that I’ve allowed modern technology and social media to whittle my attention span down to that of a gnat that’s just finished eating candy corn. (I’ve already forgotten what I was writing about and had to go back to the top of this and reread. Twice.) In fact, it’s safe to say I need an intervention. Tough love. People who will hold my feet to the fire. And you know where those people are? Book clubs.
Oprah has a book club. As you know, I’ve patterned my life after Oprah’s, with varying degrees of success. (This is probably not the right time to talk about my Valentine’s Day card to Stedman Graham.) But I’m not ready to start my own book club just yet. No, I thought I might just explore some of the numerous book clubs in Southwest Florida, and if any of them seem like clubs you might like to join as well, all the better.
What’s interesting is that many area book clubs are theme-based. So instead of having a club like the one at my next-door neighbor Ivanka’s house, which picks a random new title each month, another club might focus only on Russian authors. Up the street might be a club devoted entirely to books on holistic do-it-yourself how-tos. The point is that bonds are formed over the printed word, and each and every one of these clubs is a great opportunity to make new friends, find great reads and learn English (although not necessarily in that order).
By the way, if you’re not familiar with how book clubs work, all members read the specifically chosen book before the meeting and hopefully come prepared to discuss it. There’ll probably be wine (so eat something first). Just remember, CliffsNotes are frowned upon—unless you arrive with doughnuts. Most of the following clubs are scheduled through Meetup.org (unless otherwise stated), but other clubs can be found through neighborhood associations, community groups, coffee houses and bookstores.
The Cape Coral Bookies
I must admit to thinking this club was something else entirely, so imagine my disappointment when I thought I had the inside scoop on a filly running at Pimlico. Nevertheless, this book club (oh, I get it now) is made up of women of all ages and backgrounds who love books. Members can go online and vote for upcoming book selections. There’s even a monthly newsletter in case you want to read even more.
Naples Women’s Books Club
With 159 members, this club, led by life coach Andrea Silvershein, tends to focus on books that relate to one’s decision-making. For example, recently the club read Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network as well as Cameron Wright’s The Rent Collector. The decisions made within the works are discussed and ultimately explored as to how members might apply that information to their own circumstances. For example: red or white? andreasilvershein.com
Fort Myers Socialist Reading Group
“Have you ever wondered why we live in a society focused on profits and not human needs? Are you concerned about injustices, from police brutality toward minorities, ecological destruction or worker exploitation? Do you want to know why these things happen, and what we can do about it? Then this is the reading group for you! … We’ll read from various essays, pamphlets or a chapter of a book, and then have a collective discussion about the reading. All who have an interest in Socialism, communism or Marxism and are willing to critically engage with the material are welcome. The goal is to expand our understanding of the world so we can change it for the better, through structured, respectful debate and conversation.” Finally, a place for me to wear overalls.
Women’s Mystery/Fiction Book Club
Based in Cape Coral, this female-centric club reads and discusses a wide array of mystery and/or fiction novels monthly. Events take place the last Sunday of each month at various parks or cafés, depending on weather. At press time, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware was leading the group’s online poll for their next read. As I understand it, it’s like crossing The Love Boat with The Girl on the Train. And let me tell you, I would read that.
The Naples Girly Book Club
A newcomer to the area book club scene, this club is based on welcoming women new to Naples who are looking to make friends and meet other like-minded women and exchange ideas and points of view in a relaxed setting.
Member Gallery Book Club
Held monthly at Alliance or the Arts in Fort Myers, this club “explores literature—both fiction and non-fiction—revolving around art, artists, art history and art appreciation.” The group recently read Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle and plans to read Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman in April. artinlee.org
The New Naples Book Club
This one was created for young professionals ages 21 to 45 who love books and getting together with friends to share thoughts, ideas—and perhaps a glass of rosé. (I was onboard until they asked me to share my wine.) The club meets once a month at various restaurants and spots around Naples. Past selections have included Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close. I can’t play favorites and say this is where all the cool kids do their reading, but I suspect there is very little crossover with the aforementioned Socialist reading group. thenewnaples.com
Bros for Prose
Here we have a wide-ranging club for discerning men of all ages who enjoy reading text messages written by English majors on spring break as well as sports scores and song lyrics. The group meets daily at every bar in Southwest Florida in an effort to bring greater misunderstanding to the male species while debating the superiority of Bruce Springsteen. (OK, I made this one up. But it looks like guys are woefully underrepresented in the book club movement.)