Local book clubs ‘span the gamut of interest’

Book club selections on display at Kodiak Public Library.

Kodiak’s reading community participates in numerous book clubs.

Islander Bookshop owner Melissa Haffeman estimates that there are at least 10 active clubs locally, and suspects many more.

“Each book club that I know of has a very different feel,” she said.

“The club I belong to is very much focused on thrillers. We love to talk about who did it. I find that some are interested in nonfiction. One club in town who regularly comes in to buy books has much more of a social science taste. The book clubs really span the gamut of interest.”

Many of the book clubs prefer face-to-face monthly meetings, generally hosted in members’ houses over brunch. 

“During COVID, we shifted to Zoom,” Haffeman said.

“We’ve recently begun to meet in person, but we still have a Zoom option. We adjusted and it was nice to have that touchstone while going through all the uncertainty.”

Some book clubs are known to engage large numbers, in excess of 25 members. Haffeman suggests that 12 members is a good number for equity of voice and for allowing each member to have a month in the year to choose a selection for all to read and discuss. 

Read with Sisters member Nira Givon meets with her club every six weeks.

“We’ve read over 200 books over the last 17 years and our name is always changing,” Givon said.

“We are currently near maximum capacity with 23 members. The camaraderie and discussion that we have and the variety of books that we read is so much more than I would do on my own. It’s terrific. The discussions are intelligent and stimulating, and the food is delicious.”

IndieBound.org, a program of the American Booksellers Association, publishes an inspired recommendation guide for reading groups. Selections include debut novels, family and coming-of-age stories, historical and nonfiction books, thrillers and reads for young adults.

Another place for inspiration is Kodiak Public Library, where a long-standing tradition is the popular Book Club shelf next to the new reads.

Laurie Madsen, library director, curates the ongoing display, which is solicited in part from community members.

“We have two to three active book groups that are letting us know six months in advance of what they are reading,” Madsen said.

“We try to offer at least two to three copies of each print title as well as audio and electronic versions. We are a member of a large, statewide library consortium and are able to source materials to share.”

The library will again offer their program Kodiak Reads in the fall.

“We have a community book club. Last fall we read ‘To the Bright Edge of the World,’ a fictionalized version of a voyage up the Copper River in the 1800s, written by Alaskan author Eowyn Ivey. This year we will read ‘Find the Good’ by Alaska writer Laurette Heather Lende from Haines,” Madsen said.

This literacy project will buy copies to give away on a first come, first served basis.

“Come September, these novels will be available,” Madsen said. “Heather Lende will travel to Kodiak in early winter. I’m hoping that her visit and book will transform into some community  storytelling.”

Madsen fields inquiries from community members about where, how and when to join a book club, and can offer the community book club membership. A member of a long-standing book club herself, she acknowledges that finding one’s niche is important.

Haffeman has plans to address the connection need.

“I’ll plan for a community board in the bookshop for posting book club information,” she said.

Madsen lists book clubs among Coast Guard spouses, retired educators and neighborhood clubs.

“I’ve heard of one club that meets out at sea,” she said of a group connected to active military members.

In the works is a “bring your own chair”-style book club meeting space at the Islander Bookshop. Contact the bookstore at islanderbookshop.com or 907-942-7560.

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