COLUMN: From Oprah to OBOK

Book clubs are made up of all sorts of people, meet in all sorts of places, imbibe in all sorts of libations, and oh, yes! Books.

Oh, the book club! In which practitioners of that solitary occupation — reading — come out of their introverted hidey-holes to discuss the worlds of characters and plots with fellow book-lovers.

According to a Descant (Canadian literary magazine) blog written by Lesley Kenny, “The first book club meeting can be traced back to the 5th century, BCE, when a group of (mostly) women met over cups of steaming bullrush broth to talk about The Book of Ruth.

“Word had gotten out that the book was written by Samuel, who, it was rumoured, had an affair with the third cousin of one of the  book club women, although that has never actually been substantiated.”

Kenny’s hilarious blog can be found at

The author reassures us that the first book club was not, in fact, started by Oprah, although to be fair she was a doorway into the phenomenon for many. She quotes stats that there are now 6,437,937 book clubs worldwide (the exactness of that number intrigues me).

Book clubs are made up of all sorts of people, meet in all sorts of places, imbibe in all sorts of libations, and oh, yes! Books. They discuss all sorts of books.

From the original, biblical Book of Ruth to Jane Hamilton’s more contemporary novel of the same name, book clubs debate the nefarious motives of fictional persons like back-fence fishwives.

Non-fiction book-clubbers might delve into the life of Steve Jobs like literary hackers, or unblinkingly debate Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, almost to the Tipping Point. It’s all good fodder, and we love it.

My experience is that book clubs tend to fly a little under the radar, depending, as they do, on a good social dynamic (and sometimes a good bottle of wine).

Here in Nelson I’ll bet there are 30 book clubs operating, but they tend to stay mum; pleas in past columns to ’fess up and help the library create a list has met with stony silence (feel free to break it, any of you open to new members. We get asked all the time.)

There are two book clubs that are always open to all. One is the Bookies Book Club, a friendly group that meets monthly at the Seniors Centre next to the Civic Theatre. Call Carol at 505-2023 to find out what book will be dissected — er, discussed — next, and when.

The other is One Book, One Kootenay (OBOK), a region-wide book club that asks the question: which book should all Kootenay booklovers read this year?

Each year a panel of librarians meets, discusses books published in the Kootenay/Boundary region in the past five years in a sort of mega-mega book club, and then hones it all down to a shortlist of three.

This year, the books are South of Elfrida (Brindle & Glass, 2013) by Kaslo’s Holley Rubinsky; Africa’s Unfinished Symphony (Grassroots Publishing Group, 2013) by Fauquier resident Lucia Mann; and from Sparwood, Bobby Hutchinson, author of Blue Collar B&B (Langdon Street Press, 2009). More on these in a future column.

I love this club for the myriad ways we can participate. We can read the books and vote for our fave in the library. We can watch video footage of the authors discussing their books online at

We can attend readings happening throughout the Kootenays prior to the voting deadline (August 9) or this year’s selected author after the ballots are counted (September 8).

Meantime, folks might just start their own, short-term book club to read and discuss these three books prior to voting deadline.

It could be a nice, not-too-committed toe-dip into the book club world. Interested? Drop me an email at and we’ll see if we can start the 6,437,938th book club right here.


— Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to

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