What do you do in your free time?  Whether it’s playing football, skating, going for a coffee or watching your favorite Netflix show, everyone has a hobby.  And if you live in North America, the probability you’re spending parts of your free time in a book club, is increasingly high.

 

If the numbers published by The New York Times apply to Canada, approximately 500,000 people in Canada are regular members of a book club. And this doesn’t even take into account the millions of readers engaging in discussions online.

Being totally new to this experience as a European, I decided to take a look at one of the various book clubs Ottawa has to offer. The European Book Club in Ottawa was founded by the European Union National Institutes for Culture in Canada in 2012. The Institute encourages good, enriching, but not academic discussions on contemporary European authors and their works, previously little known among the Canadian public.

“The interesting thing is getting to know very different authors, very different styles, very different stories,” says Marie-Pierre Poulin, who works at the Goethe-Institut Montreal.

Very quickly we find ourselves in a deep discussion about the characters, important moments of the book and their interpretations. Like many of the other books the club has read in the past, “The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine” by Alina Bronsky is a story of emigration and integration, an experience several of the members can personally relate to. Many members react quite enthusiastically, saying this book had been a much more pleasant read that previous choices.

 

“A session is successful when people have something to say, regardless of whether you enjoyed the book or not,” says Marie-Pierre.

Bettina Miller, who works with the Austrian Embassy, organizes the book club. She says a major motivation for her and most other members is transforming “the individual activity of reading into a social thing, a dialogue”.

With the cold Ontarian winter and the enriching discussions, even without having read the book like it was the case for me, I now understand the appeal of book clubs. Some, like Bettina, go to several book clubs covering different areas of interest. Book club members are as diverse as the books they discuss. As for the European Book Club, lots of the founding members are still coming, and through discussing books together, lasting friendships have been established.

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The European Book Club is open to everyone interested in reading and discussing European literature and the discussions are held in English. Meetings are on the 3rd Wednesday of each month, in the basement of the OPL Sunnyside Branch, from 6-8 p.m.

On March 15th “Life after Life” from British author Kate Atkinson will be discussed, and “The painter of Birds” by Portuguese writer Lídia Jorge will be the topic on April 19th

Ottawa has a broad variety of book clubs to offer, both privately and publicly organized. You’ll find everything from groups targeting specific age groups, specific themes, genres or simply the combination of literature and good beer. For more book clubs in Ottawa, visit the website of the Ottawa Public Library or search on the platform meetup.


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