As 2020 drags itself into December and towards the end of the year (thank goodness), I was thinking about how this year, I can honestly say hand on heart, that talking about books to other people (and copious quantities of almond magnums) has been the one thing that has made 2020 bearable.
I don’t think it’s any secret how much I love reading and talking about books, and I often forget I only started Years Of Reading just over three years ago.
What you probably don’t know about me is how way before I got to this point, that a Book Club in a local library helped me from falling deep into depression and kickstarted my love of reading again. I was finding things really tough at work, with no support and even though I was in a relationship and had a few good friends, I was feeling alone, bone tired and some days couldn’t see the point in getting out of bed.
One day when I was in a library in Leeds, I saw an advert for a Book Club starting right there in the library, and just thought it could be something to not only get me out of the house, but also to meet the other people who loved books too. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
We were a mixed bunch, and to be honest, I was probably the youngest person there, but do you know what? It didn’t matter. We were all there because we loved books, and for that midweek monthly evening, the upstairs meeting room in that library was our wonderful, inclusive, bookish heaven.
Not only did we get the chance to talk about the books we loved and the ones we didn’t, but for those two hours, I was with a group of people who completely understood what books and reading meant to me. They knew what it felt like when you read that book that meant everything, how thrilled you were when you found out your favourite author had a new book coming out, and what it felt like to have a stack of new books on your bedside table.
For me at that time in my life, the Book Club was a thing to look forward to, a definite date in my calendar and a goal I had to work towards – because if I hadn’t read the book, how could I take part? Listening to other people who loved reading as much as I did, gave me a connection, an unspoken understanding with someone else, and it slowly made me feel more like me again and genuinely interested in reading again.
As the Book Club took place in a library, we could get there early before it started. I could choose the books I wanted at leisure and have them nestled in my bag ready to look through on the bus home. As we all surely know by now, libraries are incredibly important for so many people for so many reasons too.
In my case, at various points in my life, libraries have been the thing that has got me through the week. They were the place I could go to when I didn’t have a job and very little money, where I could choose books to take home and lose myself just for a little while without worrying about the world outside. They have been my safe haven when I needed to have some time to myself and when I was alone in Leeds, talking to the library staff was often the only human contact I had aside from talking to my parents in Wales.
This is why the Generation Book Club – which is being set up by Louie Freeman-Bassett, is so important – perhaps now more than ever. When Louie contacted me to ask if I would talk about what he is doing, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Louie is single handedly trying to create a network of Book Clubs so that anyone who loves reading but is not sure where to find their local group can search online on his site.
Generation Book Club is aiming to not only get as many Book Clubs signed up as possible, but is also attempting to get a Book Club signed up in every county in the UK by World Book Day – the 4th March 2021.
If you run a Book Club, or want to find one in your area, have a look at Louie’s site to see how you can get involved. Even if you could just share Louie’s site on Twitter or follow Generation Book Club on Instagram it would really help to get the word out. He’s doing this all on his own – and I am in awe of him and want to help. It’s undeniable that Lockdown has had a massive impact on our lives, and loneliness is hard to bear at the best of times, but there is no doubt that sharing the love of reading can help.
The Book Club in Headingley Library was one of those times in my life where books and reading were truly what kept me going. It helped me understand that meeting and talking to other bookish people is not only the best feeling in the world, but that when you can share the love of reading with someone else who absolutely understand what books mean to you – you are never on your own.