The last annual Reading Trends Report by Amazon, in 2017, found that Bengaluru is the most well-read city in India.
Bengaluru’s rich literary culture can be seen in the number of book stores, libraries and even niche literary festivals that the city has made space for. However, in recent times, with online content consuming much of people’s time, many are struggling to pick up a book. To keep the love of books and reading alive, many book clubs have started popping up in the city.
Rashmi Swamy, a freelance photographer, joined the ‘Bring Your Own Book’ club four years ago for the same reason. She is now one of the five admins of the club. “Book clubs expose you to new perspectives. You also end up reading beyond your comfort zone simply by listening to other people talk about a particular work or genre. Besides, these meetings allow you to meet so many people. It is a great intellectual stimulus,” she shares.
Book clubs help make a solitary activity like reading a shared experience. “We end up sharing more than just about the books. We have vulnerable moments where someone speaks about how a particular book changes their lives. It amazes me how we can sit there for hours on end talking about anything and everything,” she says.
Rohini Malur, who organises the book club at Atta Galatta echoes these sentiments. “Book clubs allows an internal activity to become a shared experience, which is such a wonderful thing,” she says. A book club is a place for varied opinions and sentiments to coexist. “There is no room for clash or confusion. That is the job of the moderator. Everyone should be able to express their opinion, as long as they are respectful about it,” she explains.
A book club is not about being right or wrong, but about learning, sharing and growing, says Perry Menzies, owner of Urban Solace. The Urban Solace Book Lovers’ Club started in 2010 and is now one of the oldest book clubs in the city. Perry Menzies, owner of Urban Solace, says that a lot of hard work goes into organising these meets. The monthly event is hosted by Christina Daniels.
“The curator needs to really know the book under discussion. Apart from having read the book, they need to be familiar with the writer, their other works, the political, social, economical backdrop against which the book is set, contemporary authors and books and authors with similar style of writing,” he explains.
Atta Galatta Reading Club
When: Once a month, on the second or third Sunday.
Where: Atta Galatta, Koramangala
Books chosen: Instead of choosing a book, a theme is selected, which allows attendees to bring any book of their choice, provided it fits the theme. “This allows everyone to walk away with new knowledge, because it allows them to hear about a book they might never have read otherwise,” explains Rohini Malur, moderator of the club. The theme for the coming month is ‘Magical People’.
Who attends: The theme attracts people, says Malur. Many who are voracious readers, but are looking for a socialable company, or people with shared interests make up much of the audience. Students and working professionals make up most of the group. They also have readers as young as 10 years old and as old as 70 years old.
How to join: The events are updated on the website and social media pages. “Just show up,” says Malur.
Bring Your Own Book
When: Once a month, usually on the third Saturday.
Where: Changes every month, usually at a member’s house.
Books chosen: Bring any book of your choice, as the name suggests. Everyone who attends will be given five to ten minutes to share, after which a discussion follows. “Sometimes people come and listen. But, if you are new, do bring a book. Even if you don’t have a physical copy, share,” says Rashmi Swami, one of the admins. This format brings in more people as it allows them the liberty of reading any book of their choice.
Who attends: Mostly people within the 25 to 40 age bracket. Some people also bring their children. They also have a few people between the age group of 40 to 60 years who attend the sessions.
How to join: The meetings are updated on their Facebook and other social media pages. Regular members get updates on their Whatsapp group. The sessions are free. However, one has to register on a Google form, as updated on their group. “Since sessions are generally conducted in someone’s house, we don’t want to simply give our addresses. Once you register, you will be notified of the same,” she explains.
Urban Solace Book Lovers’ Club
When: Once a month on the second Sunday of the month, between 11.30 am and 1 pm
Where: Urban Solace, Ulsoor.
Books chosen: Their format has evolved over the years. They started off with classics and then began featuring writers and their most recent work. After four years, the club moved to feature writers and their body of work. They also often include panel discussions, photo exhibitions, graphic art exhibitions on the book covers or famous quotations from the writer and even screening of the film based on the book under discussion.
Who attends: The audience changes depending on the book being covered. Mostly they are lovers of English literature and writing, or fans of specific writer.
Graduate and post graduate students, working professionals and even retired people attend these meetings.
How to join: The club is open to anyone. It is a free event. Information on the book that is being discussed is listed on their social media pages.
Under The Lamp
When: Every fortnight.
Where: Usually around MG Road. “We have a few locations we cycle through,” says Vaishnavi M, an attendee.
Books chosen: At the beginning of a month someone proposes a book they’ve already read. They give a synopsis and and a brief overview on the author, after which the members collectively decide on what appeals to them. The person who proposes the selected book becomes the moderator. They also hold a reading challenge. “It’s a 50 day challenge where you log at least 20 pages per day as read. This also makes sure we keep the members who can’t make it to every meeting in the loop,” she says.
Who attends: We are only two years old, but 40-members strong. It’s open to everyone; we’ve had people as young as 17 to as old as 70 join us. We have about 10 people at every meet, with the average age of attendees being 25.
How to join: Reach out to @underthelamp on Instagram or contact 80507 69824.
There are no dearth of niche reading clubs in the city, from women’s only reading groups to silent reading clubs. If you are more specific about the people you want to be flipping pages with, visit www.meetup.com, where most of them update their meets.