The Case for Twilight Book Clubs
I’ve always been drawn to the idea of book clubs. But, in reality, that’s always all it’s ever been to me–an idea.
During high school, in a last-ditch effort to find community at the time when I felt most incapacitated by my anxiety, I recall trying to start a book club with the help of the librarian. In the end, I was one of two people who read the book, and we never met a second time. When I graduated from college a year before my two best friends, we started a book club (/podcast, which is highly cringey to admit in retrospect…) as a means to stay close despite the newfound distance. Again, we read one book before letting the self-imposed pressure to publicize our conversations get the better of us. A couple of years ago, I did an internship at the Feminist Press, and even there, perhaps the place one would need the least external motivation to collectively read and talk about books, I become absorbed with the idea of starting dedicated book club among the staff. No surprise, that project did not come to fruition. Since moving to Seattle, I’ve officially joined approximately five different book clubs, some through bookstores, some through friends, some through neighborhood groups. I’ve never actually been to a single meeting, though I still read the books on my own sometimes–always with the best and most hopeful intentions.
What’s clear about this trend, I think, is that the sudden desire to be a part of a book club has consistently appeared at a time in my life when I was feeling particularly disconnected from my community. My first couple of years of high school, the year after graduating college, the few months I spent living in New York away from everyone I’d ever known, and the first year I was living a truly independent, adult life. The timing of the most recent resurgence of this impulse will probably come as no surprise to anyone–it was about a month into quarantine.
At that point, back in April, I was still sort of making good on my promises to video chat with friends at regular intervals, but I could feel my capacity for even that coming to an end. So, in tried and true fashion, I was making tentative plans to join multiple different virtual book clubs across multiple different sectors of my life. And, honestly, it just genuinely still didn’t occur to me that I’m not great at book clubs and so maybe it’s not actually a functionable solution. So I made the plans, and I let myself be swept up in the promise of the glorious book-themed community-building I imagined I would soon be an integral part of.
I’m sure I don’t need to spell out the fact that I’m not, in fact, currently a part of several quarantine book clubs. But, to even my surprise, I am an active participant in one: a chapter-by-chapter Twilight-universe book club.
There are probably a few different reasons why this is my only book club success story. Beyond some logistical considerations, though, is the glaring truth that this is the first book club I’ve tried that’s been focused on media I was already very familiar with. To a lot of people, this may feel a little counterintuitive. Obviously, socializing is a big component of the practice regardless of the book selections, but I know we also think of book clubs as the kind of hobby people who like the push to read more deeply and more broadly tend to have. I mean, there’s a reason why I haven’t unsubscribed to the “Classics of Science Fiction” book group email list I subscribed to years ago despite the fact that I’m definitely more of a non-classics kind of reader.
But it’s just not about the books. That’s what reading Twilight (and Life and Death and now Midnight Sun) with a group of four people who I previously only knew by name has taught me. It’s about taking time to extricate yourself from your daily life, turn your collective attention in the same direction, and use that process as a vehicle to talk about shared experiences, shared concerns, shared hopes.
We meet once a week, reading only two chapters at a time, and we reliably talk for about two hours and fifteen minutes regardless how much content there is to get through. We talk about the visceral experience of having been a pre-teen femme when Twilight was first published, the best queer headcanons, and our distrust of writers who choose to unilaterally insert themselves back into stories they created years ago. In other words, we talk about exactly what you’d hope to in a good book club and, because the content is so familiar to us, we’re getting to our unique perspectives and interests more quickly and deeply. As it turns out, if you want to get to know someone, ask them about Twilight.
This period in my life is a dark one. That’s true of so many of us. But one unequivocally bright spot is my Twilight book club on Wednesday at 8 p.m. No matter how sad or angry or hopeless I feel during the day, I can trust that those couple of hours will make me feel connected to the world and to other people again.
What’s sort of ironic about this whole experience is that if I’d read Midnight Sun, for example, under literally any other circumstance, I would have written about my reaction to it for this very blog. But instead, I’m going to tell my book club, and I think maybe you should do the same.