It’s Grace here to talk about yesterday’s first classics book club!
You know the other book club I’ve been talking about nonstop on my social media? On the blog, I’ve been talking about my new job at the Oxford Exchange bookstore and how I’m running a classics book club for teens. Yesterday was my fourth (?) day at work and my first day of book club, so it was a pretty eventful day! (That’s also why I didn’t post this week, sorry!)
Our first book was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I chose it because I know it’s one that a lot of teens want to read, it has a very readable and accessible style, and it’s one that people tend to disagree about often. Is it genius or unbearably pretentious?
Without further ado, here’s what happened at book club.
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger | Goodreads
I started working at two, although I arrived a little early. I ended up camping out for about half an hour reading Seaborne by Matt Myklusch on the couch (a truly excellent middle grade) before I clocked into work. Once I did that, I helped with the set-up upstairs and filled out a bit more paperwork.
Most of it was just a waiting game. I hadn’t been nervous until about fifteen minutes before – the time when I always worry about moderating and attendance and all the little details. Oxford is amazing with the little details and the aesthetic so I was so grateful to be working with them on it!
(I mean, just look at that poster! I’m still in awe over the gorgeous design and it mimics my blog!)
When people started showing up, I was mostly put at ease. We were upstairs in the Commerce Club – the Smith room to be exact, ironically enough – and it has this beautiful oval table. I was hoping we’d have enough people to fill it!
We started out with about fifteen people, plus me. My twin sister Hannah was kind enough to take pictures – both for yearbook and for the blog – because she’s excellent with photography. While South Tampa feels like a pretty small world, we had some girls and guys from other nearby areas like Land O’ Lakes and St. Pete, like another blogger MacKenzie.
I wrote last week about my experience with English teachers in my education and my amazing AP Lang teacher who left our school. Mr. Thomas – the FAMOUS Mr. Thomas, who’s one of my favorite teachers of all time – showed up to my book club for a bit to support me. I was so choked up. I had him for about four or five weeks and even then, it was hard to say goodbye. He brought a lesson plan for the book which made us all laugh. Of course. He had to leave partway through with his son but it was definitely one of the highlights.
TeBella Tea Company has a counter in the Oxford Exchange so they supplied pumpkin spice latte tea for the event. In fact, the beverage was later christened “lattea” by the members of the book club. We also had mini chocolate cupcakes, which I took the opportunity to gorge myself on – I’m telling you, the hardest part of working there is that the food is so good! I’m going to end up spending my entire paycheck on Penguin Classics and club sandwiches.
I started out with introductions. We went around the table and did the standard name/grade/school/interesting fact dynamic and I let them all chat for a bit until I felt like it was time to steer the conversation back to the book.
We went around and talked basic reactions to the books. Did they hate it, did they love it, did they go back and forth? A lot of people said the same: they enjoyed the book so much but didn’t so much like Holden as a character. Or, at least, they don’t think he’s mentally balanced.
That led into conversation about what stemmed Holden’s character development and whether he showed maturity/immaturity at points in the book. Was his self-confidence and sense of identity admirable or slightly hypocritical? There were some excellent points made in that, a conversation which eventually branched out into topics like mental disorders, rape culture, and banned books.
(This serves as your head’s up that Banned Books Week is this week and I’ll be doing my usual post venting about censorship and why books are important.)
We talked about things like voice and distinction as a character – did Salinger’s writing style emulate the ideas that Holden had or was it purely the character talking? For that, I had to recruit some who had read Salinger’s later works. I was nervous at first but once the conversation started rolling, I didn’t have to do too much prodding. I can’t even recall all that we talked about; I think I was in a state of shock that it managed to go so well. Before I knew it, it was time to go and we all packed up.
I brought some mini cupcakes down to my co-workers and chatted with the kids who came, which was fun. They ended up mostly hanging out at Buddy Brew and TeBella, talking. I’d like to get a lot of people into the book club, but it’ll also be nice when it settles into a consistent group that keeps coming back. I hope to have people come month-to-month but it’ll also be great to have new people and voices in, depending on the month.
I went back to work but I was happy with the turnout! For next month, I’ve picked Frankenstein in the spirit of Halloween. We have some lovely lovely lovely copies down at the Oxford Exchange bookstore that I’m obsessed with, so I highly encourage you to come grab a copy if you’d like to come next month! We’re open to everyone, provided you’re a teen!
Thanks to everyone who came. I hope y’all had a great time!
Upcoming Book Clubs
October 7 at Inkwood Books at 7 P.M.
A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall | Goodreads
October 12 at Oxford Exchange at 3 P.M.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley | Goodreads
Like what you read? Come to next month’s book club!