by Morgane Abbott
On the 1st of April 2019, a small group of pioneers gathered by Eve Carroll, LIS Teacher Librarian, met for the first time in the library of Leipzig International School, to discuss Gail Honeyman’s debut novel “Eleonor Oliphant is completely fine”.
From “I love literature” to “I saw some light and a comfy sofa”, the reasons for joining were diverse. But what was and remains an asset specific to our book club is the wish for its members to connect to other people in English in the German city of Leipzig.
The book clubbers say it better:
Lauren* is “[…] glad that the English book club exists here! Being new to the city and new to the LIS community, I was grateful to find a way to connect and meet people in English, while also finding a good reason to prioritize reading among all of the other things one does when readjusting to life in a new city. […] It’s also a nice opportunity to have discussions in English, which is not always possible here in Leipzig.”
Ann-Kerstin* shares similar motivations: “I joined the book club because I love reading and I wanted to meet new people. I was new to Leipzig and barely knew anybody here. Also I was interested in speaking English and meeting other parents from the LIS community.”
Claudia*, “as a native German, […] wanted to keep or even improve my English language skills.”
In its 4 years of existence, the book club, which is made up of parents, teachers and people with no connection to the school, has discussed 37 books (listed below), from non-fiction to fiction, historic novels to fantasy, intense crime stories to shallower “chicklit”.
A couple of months ahead of the meeting, a book is chosen by the community of book clubbers among a selection that they themselves suggested. It makes for a variety of topics and themes, and is a way to bring readers out of their comfort zone, enabling them to discover a style, or an author that they wouldn’t have usually chosen.
Beatrix* sees it as the opportunity to “get a taste of books that don‘t fit my profile. Sometimes with great gain, sometimes I regret having wasted my monthly bonus on that book.”
Claudia enjoys getting “to read books of all styles – it’s nice to step outside my own “book bubble” once in a while.”
Claudia is one of several members who isn’t connected to LIS, and joined the book club during one of the Corona lockdowns, when all other clubs in Leipzig had put their activities on hold. Over this 2-year period, the club found ways to keep meeting and discussing books, be it online or outside in the park (with distance).
During the meetings, the books are discussed in English, but each participant can of course “read” the books in the language or the format they prefer.
Beatrix* for instance “[…] quickly found that book club is a wonderful way of scrambling my Audible algorithm! As an auditive person, I tend to listen to the books more often than read. But here of course that makes no difference.”
“Sharing” is the Motto of any book club. Ours is no exception.
It implies keeping an open mind and respecting the opinions of each club member. Discussions can be heated, but it is fascinating to watch as people accept and sometimes revise their ideas about a book after exchanging views.
Beatrix confirms that “[…] all in all, talking about these books with so many others who may have a completely different opinion is invigorating”.
Lauren has “[…] actually never been part of a book club before this, but it feels similar to when I studied literature in university, where there are different people with individual perspectives all contributing thoughts on a variety of topics and themes. It’s a very welcoming, low-pressure environment where I feel welcome to share and am also interested in what other readers have to say about their thoughts and experiences. We all filter new ideas and new understandings through our own lenses of experience, and it’s this exchange that I find most interesting when discussing a novel with this group of people.”
Claudia loves “[…] the idea of not only consuming stories (like watching TV), but giving the stories some more thought, discussing them and putting them into context – together with other people […]. We all have different backgrounds, have experienced different things in life. So it’s always an interesting and respectful discussion – with varying views on ONE topic.”
So here’s to many more years of reading and sharing, and long live the Leipzig International School Community Book Club!
The 37 books we have read (not listed in chronological order) :
*the book club members mentioned have given their agreement for their name to appear in the article.