Thinking of starting a Book Club….

//Thinking of starting a Book Club….

Newly posted to Brunei, and with the unfamiliar novelty of having time on her hands, Kim decided to start a book club. In this blog she shares her experience of getting the book club up and running, how the first three meetings went, the awkward bits, the good bits, and how it’s stuck…

Book Club Brunei

Before my family moved to Brunei, I was a primary school teacher and used to being busy. It hadn’t taken our three boys long to settle into their new school and my husband to get into the working routine, and I found myself with six hours a day of freedom! At first this was amazing. I had never had so much time to myself. But, within a few weeks I knew I needed something to focus on before I went crazy. Yes, I know you’re probably thinking why would I ever complain about that. But honestly, I could feel intelligence and sanity leaking out of me each day I didn’t have something to achieve.

I have always loved reading and happily filled this spare time with books. But Brunei has its challenges with post… as any overseas BFPO address does. And I love to hold a book and not just a kindle.

It was at this time that I met Karen, who is also an avid reader. She told me there used to be a book club within the Loan Service Team but unfortunately after Covid it never seemed to pick back up, as the members had been posted. She was keen for it to start again but didn’t want to take the lead. I had now found my focus. Yayyyy!

My first thought was to get in touch with Reading Force and ask for some scrapbooks so I could see which families enjoyed reading. I also put a poll out on our WhatsApp group to see who would be interested in a book club. The response was ok (not the outstanding interest I had hoped), I think about five people, and I thought that would be enough to start a club.

Through ordering the scrapbooks, I was put in touch with Nicola at Reading Force, who would be able to help me with a book club. Oh my goodness, what an amazingly helpful lady she is! Nicola gave me the information I needed to set up the book club and also organised for us to receive three free books! This was the start of Brunei Loan Service Book Club!


Starting the Book Club….

So, it started. We had our first meeting, where a whole four of us turned up. It wasn’t as many as I had hoped for, but it was a start. What’s that saying, from little acorns grow mighty oaks… I know you can so tell I’m a teacher – I had to have hope! Our first meet was in November 2023, we were given a list of book titles by Nicola that we could be sent, so the first task was deciding on the titles. As I knew post could be problematic, I suggested to the group that we add titles we would like to read as a group and use a jar to pick one out at each meet while waiting for the Reading Force books to arrive. This was great fun and was so nice to see the variety of titles people wanted to read. From Nicola we asked for The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman and Skios by Michael Frayn.

First book we read and first meeting

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center. (December’s book)

This was the first title out of our jar. I think a couple of members had seen the film… we all know books are better and this did not let us down.

When we met to review the book, it was our first official meet and I found this pretty difficult to lead…. Give me a room full of kids and I will happily talk for hours…. A few adults and I get all awkward.

I didn’t want it to be too formal and school-like with questions and as we all knew each other we didn’t really need any ice-breakers. I also didn’t want to always be the one leading the conversations but, I just went straight in with talking about the book and asked if anyone had anything they wanted to share. This actually worked ok and we managed to get some feedback. It was obvious that this wasn’t the type of book many members would usually read (I loved it… a rom-com while hiking and finding yourself, easy to read and relatable characters) and few liked the story but, this did create conversation. With hindsight, I definitely could have prepared questions.

For this meeting we used the Community Centre, but I think the room was too big and lacked the warmth and atmosphere I had wanted to create. I guess I thought it was like the films where you all sit laughing and talking whilst sipping wine and nibbling crisps! It wasn’t the romantic image I had, but none the less, a few hours later… after deviating somewhat… we had had out first book club meet.

I learned a lot from the first meet and know the areas I would like to change for the next meet, definitely using some of the tips and tricks Nicola sent me in an email.…. Watch this space and wish me luck!

Second book and meeting

Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (January’s book)

This was the first title of our Reading Force selection which, took nearly two months to arrive! Poor Nicola had sent them late November but, due to Christmas, the post was hugely disrupted. However, the anticipation of getting a parcel was well worth the wait.

The parcel came full of envelopes with each member’s name on, we all loved the personalised touch and element of surprise. In each envelope was the free book, a reading log and a bookmark.

So, the day had come to meet. I was hosting at my home this time, as I wanted to achieve a little more ambiance than the Community Centre. I spent my morning gathering ideas on how to make a book themed table. I know, but I like this sort of setting the scene, crafty thing! I found some relevant questions about the book, got all my entertaining dishes filled with snacks, topped up the tea and coffee. I was ready and raring to go.

When evening came, I lit my candles, put on some instrumental jazz background music and eagerly awaited the members arrival! This was more like the book club dream I had envisaged. As each member arrived it became more and more common that they hadn’t had time to finish the book this month! I was slightly devastated, as I had my questions ready and this book is truly brilliant for a book club. So many characters and underlying plots that make for great discussion. Plus, I personally loved the book and wanted to share all my thoughts!

To my surprise, we actually spoke quite a lot about the book without giving too much of the ending away and it turned out to be a really good meet. It was amazing to hear the variety of people’s favourite characters and why. What they thought was going to happen compared with how it ends. There was only one member this time who couldn’t quite get into the writing style but, was going to persist until she had finished. I think the rest of us would definitely recommend the book. And for those who hadn’t yet finished, they planned to continue reading it.

We selected our next read from the Jar – Midnight Library by Matt Haig and agreed to meet in March for discussion…. Let’s hope we all get to read the book in time!

Third book and meeting

Midnight Library by Matt Haig (February’s book)

This was the second title from our jar selection which, as book geeks, we thought would be a good read. We had agreed to meet at the Community Centre again, as there was already an event going on and it made sense to stay on rather than move about.

As mentioned last month, I really like to have a bit of a setting for the book club meets, so I was a little disappointed that it was at the big open space of the Community Centre. But there is always a way around these things. So, I took all my little finishing touches to the CC with me and arranged the chairs so it became a little cosier. I decided to be prepped again, and have a few topics ready for discussion, so I searched the net and found some great questions to get us started.

It was time for the meeting, a few members had already said they couldn’t make it this time, or hadn’t had a chance to finish the book! Anyway, we had six members attending which was plenty. So, we had an overview of thoughts and it seemed that most of us didn’t quite enjoy the style of this book as it was quite dark. That there seemed to be something missing and we weren’t sure we got much from it.

However, once I started with the questions and we delved deeper, it was surprising how much of the plot we had taken in without realising and how it had actually made us think a lot about our own lives. Being grateful for what we have, knowing that what little changes we may have made along the way, could have had a deeper impact on people and we wouldn’t even know it! And that, none of the lives chosen by the main character were perfect, because life isn’t perfect but it can be a whole lot better if you strive for things you want to achieve.

I really enjoyed this meet and feel like we are connecting as a group now. Opening up about the books we area reading and enjoying discussing them. When I originally took on the role of a book club organiser, I really wasn’t sure what to expect or how it would run. But I think we have started a group that will continue to meet, continue to read and continue to discuss books. I can’t thank Reading Force enough for the help in setting all this up, and the support they have given me in my mission. Here is to the next book…

Thank you!