Not your mother’s book club.” That’s how it’s promoted, and for sure the Kawartha Lakes library’s “Pages and Pints Book Club” has unexpected features calculated to draw young and young-at-heart adults — not the least of which is its location.
Held upstairs at the Pie Eyed Monk, beginning at 7 pm on the third Thursday of each month, tippling of beer and consumption of bar snacks is certainly an option.
Pages and Pints was organized by twenty-something librarian Lyndsay Bowen, responsible for “Outreach and Community Engagement” — a job title that didn’t exist a couple of years ago.
Bowen has already seen more than 100 members join their Facebook page.
It’s organized along thematic lines. A list of examples of books that fit into the theme is posted online as a starting-point.
The First Meeting
“Challenged/Banned Books” was the theme chosen to kick off the club. “Challenges” are attempts to limit public access to particular books in libraries, schools, or bookstores. Among the top ten reasons cited for challenges? Sexually explicit, LGBTQ content, profanity, racism, violence, religious views, suicide as a subject, and drug and alcohol use. What theme could be more provocative and better calculated to stimulate discussion?
Those who braved the frigid temperatures — I was among them — were welcomed by Bowen. We checked-in with some contact information and titles of books we’d read and wanted to discuss, looked over a display of books on the February theme of “Marginalized Voices,” and mingled.
Time to get underway, so all moved to tables set up with eight chairs, settling in with iced water or pints or half-pints of craft beer and maybe pickle chips or pizza knots (complementary for this first session). A number of books and some notes in front of them.
Those at the tables ranged in age from mid-twenties to mid-seventies. Books to be discussed ran the gamut from children’s literature (Little House on the Prairie, Harry Potter, and the Tintin series), through teen fiction (Two Boys Kissing and 13 Reasons Why) to novels by D.H. Lawrence, Edna O’Brien and Toni Morrison.
At each table we were asked to introduce ourselves and the books we’d read. With just that prompt it all flowed.
Two Grade 7-8 teachers talked of controversial but popular teen fiction (13 Reasons Why, a book and Netflix series dealing with suicide; the novels of John Green, which include underage drinking and sex) and their responses as teachers.
There was discussion of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, subject of a famous obscenity trial in the UK in 1960. Those who’d read it said they couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. (Fun fact: Just this year the trial judge’s battered paperback copy of the novel, with underlined passages and “coarse” and “vulgar” marginal notes by the judge and his wife was bought by the University of Bristol for $69,000.)
One of the books discussed was Two Boys Kissing, a book that’s been subject to banning and even a burning in the U.S., in part on the basis of a cover illustration of . . . two teen-aged boys kissing.
A couple of personal asides: Heartening to note the book is part of an expanding collection of LGBTQ+ fiction and nonfiction available from the library (and on display each year at the library’s Pride Picnic display). And it’s worth noting that almost all the challenged book titles listed on the Canadian and American Library Association sites are available in the Kawartha Lakes Library system.
Also worth noting that over the past 10 years there have been no book challenges here. Freedom to read seems to be a value entrenched in our library and supported by our community.
What will stay with those at my table was a reminder of how fortunate we are to have our Canadian freedom of expression and freedom to read. The reminder came from Shahbaz Ehsani, an Iranian-born translator who’s now part of the Lindsay community.
Shahbaz talked of a culture in which those freedoms don’t exist and shared his translations of two poems by Ahmad Shamloo, who we were told was the most influential 20th century literary figure of the Persian speaking world. The poems had been smuggled out of Iran as an audio file on a memory-stick.
The opening lines of one: “They check your breath/ Lest you have said I love you/ They check your heart/ Strange time it is o, dear!”
Reviews on the first night are in, and they’re all positive. Among the comments:
*A really nice break and chance to hang out with other adults (I have a 7 and a 9 year old at home).
*I thought the genre-based book club idea was a good one because it allowed for flexibility.
*I loved it! It was great to meet other people who enjoy reading as much as I do.
*I found it interesting how many different books were selected and yet how easily we were able to find common threads in both the books and our reading experiences.
*Engaging discussion on the theme of banned books
*I enjoyed the session because it was a topical discussion, not talking about a specific book.
The next meeting of the Pages and Pints Book Club will be Feb. 20. For more information join the Facebook group, Pages and Pints Kawartha Lakes or call Kawartha Lakes Public Library–Outreach at 705-324-9411 ext. 1256 and ask to be put on the mailing list. For reading material, in addition to its large collection of books, the library has digital versions available as e-books or audiobooks