Books are a repository of written wealth. With people getting glued to gizmos and gadgets, the reading habit has seen a dip. In the context of books and reaching out to make this wealth accessible are several initiatives like book clubs.
The Out-Of-Context book club was started with the purpose of reviving the reading habit, states its founder, Archana Nagvekar from Margao.
She puts it simply, "We want to get people back into reading and discussing books. Through this book club, we want to create a safe platform where any kind of book can be discussed. With books, come issues raised by books. We go by the tagline ‘No book is taboo’. Hence, this book club is a safe forum to discuss any kind of issue."
From discussing how a futuristic world would cope with over-population in the book, Pop Squad, by Paolo Bacigalupi, to talking about mental health issues as part of the discussion on Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, the range has been diverse.
COMPLETING A SUPER SEVEN YEARS
Founded in December of 2016, the Out-Of-Context book club completes 7 years this year. Through the years, they have discussed around 125 books and short stories so far, informs Archana. Even the pandemic couldn't play spoilsport with their book discussions.
Archana recalls, "During COVID, we had to take to the digital platform. We are onboard an online platform, called DISCORD, which is great for discussing books, as it has voice and text features as well."
She adds, "But now, most of our meetings are in person. We meet at different places. However, the last few meets have been at Broadway Bookshop, Panjim. Our readings are held once in 3-4 weeks so as to give enough time for members to read a selected book."
Archana reveals the significance of the name of the book club, "When we started the book club and were thinking of a unique name, I happened to read somewhere that nothing in life is in context. Things happen pretty much randomly and without rhyme or reason. Hence the name, Out-of-Context!"
UNITED BY A LOVE FOR BOOKS
There's no particular target audience in mind for the club. Archana says that most of the books that have been read and discussed are for adults or young adults. "Most of our discussions are open to the public. Whoever identifies with a book comes for the discussion. Some of them become permanent members of the book club."
Despite facing challenges from other forms of entertainment, the club membership has increased over the years.
"Book reading is a solitary activity that requires commitment. A book club is different from, say, a film club. Over the years, our membership has steadily grown. The most important change I’ve seen in people is the varied types of books that they have selected,” she explains.
“Our members have really taken time and patience to select books that are worthy of discussing. Another change I’ve seen is how once shy people have now turned pros at presenting books at our discussions," says Archana.
"Most members of the club don’t have a background in literature; we are united only by our love for books," says Archana who herself is a working professional with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. "I’m a book lover by passion," she says.
The sessions are not dry discussions. Sometimes, there's even drama! "For our 100th book, we had a dramatic performance reading of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is light and fun. Activities such as these are good to get children involved in reading and literature. For our forthcoming 7th year anniversary, we plan to do a special dramatic reading, which we will announce shortly."
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Firmly believing in the power of such book discussions in developing mind and personality, Archana sounds positive, "Books have to continuously compete with more attractive options for self- entertainment like mobile phones. But, we have lit a spark and we plan to keep it alive for as long as possible. Because reading makes you a well-grounded person.”
“In addition to that, discussing them in forums like a book club make you a well-rounded person as you learn to accept and respect other people’s viewpoints which may be different from yours," she concludes.
The Out-Of-Context book club can be reached at email@example.com