The Museum’s Boundless book club was a cooperative brainstorm between myself and Sara Segerlin, Public Programs Senior Museum Educator, to pursue a literary crowd that was more oriented towards books—with less of a focus on art than our Art Book Club, whose selections often coincide with our traveling exhibitions. Being an avid reader myself, the idea was to have a Salon, or a casual discussion (somewhere in the middle spectrum between the Algonquin Round Table and the Bloomsbury Group) where, whether the participants had read the book or not, all could engage in lively conversation.
Also, many individuals cannot attend the afternoon Art Book Club, so this was set up for those who hold day jobs or care for children during the day and are seeking an outlet to relax, converse, and enjoy a libation (or two). With my combined Literature and Library Science degrees, I built a list of fiction novels or short stories that would appeal to a broad audience, and writers who are known for their accomplishments or awards. I chose books that strike me as having a connection to people who consider themselves “book people,” that are yet broad enough for those who are coming just to wind down and enjoy a mid-week break. Books are also chosen that push the boundaries of “typical” book club subjects. Light reading plays an enormous part in choosing as well. I want the participants to enjoy the story without feeling bogged down by a five-hundred-page novel. I didn’t want them to feel as if it were a homework assignment!
Selecting the books is fun because I read The New York Times Book Review, NPR Books website, Booklist magazine, and Amazon’s Best Books of the Month Club for research. I seek out current or popular authors whose novels are recognizable but not banal.
April’s Boundless discussed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, a novel I found to be quite interesting regarding the current push for digital ‘printing’ in the publishing environment. The story is set in modern day San Francisco where Clay, a former web designer, works at a bookstore and his love interest, Kat is employed at Google. The book caught my eye as it was first published digitally through Kindle Direct Publishing. The author’s background was interesting as well, as he co-founded the literary magazine Oats, yet has a digital media background, having worked at Current TV and Twitter.
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker is June’s Boundless selection (on June 11) and it will be a fun book club choice. It is not long at 142 pages, nevertheless it’s a very witty and quirky read described as “Seinfeld-esque.” I have long been a fan of Baker’s novels and count The Anthologist as one of my favorite novels. Baker also wrote an interesting declaration supporting libraries—Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, which first appeared as an article in The New Yorker.
My goal is for people to use Boundless as a way to escape and socialize with others who value intelligent or entertaining discussions bridged to popular culture in a beautiful, cultural institution. I hope you will join us!
The June Boundless Book Club meets from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 11. It’s free, with online registration. Click here to register.