Deep Reading Clubs: A Subtle and Wonderful Format
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I’ve had the opportunity to run numerous deep reading club sessions, and I must admit, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with this format. It brings something new and wonderful to the table in a subtle way that I’d like to explain. So, let’s dive into why deep reading clubs are truly amazing.
How Deep Reading Clubs Work
In a deep reading club, someone selects a book and invites a group to read it together. The group engages in communal reading, taking the necessary time to absorb and understand the text. Annotations are made collectively, and these annotations serve as catalysts for the ensuing conversations.
To facilitate these clubs, I rely on a combination of Zoom and Google Docs. The nature of deep reading aligns well with virtual platforms like Zoom, as reading a book in a seated position feels natural and doesn’t hinder the experience like a typical Zoom gathering might.
Features of Deep Reading Clubs
Here are some notable features of deep reading clubs:
No homework: Participants need not read ahead of time to actively engage with the group. Everyone comes as they are, and the context is built together during the club session.
Questions, not takes: Drawing from the insights of @humsys, the emphasis lies on curiosity about what the book conveys and how our minds and bodies respond. Rather than passing judgment or using the book as a basis for self-judgment, we prioritize exploration and inquiry.
Embracing ample space: The goal is to immerse ourselves deeply in the text, rather than racing to reach the end. If we don’t finish the book, it’s perfectly fine.
Choosing the Right Book
Selecting an appropriate book is crucial for a successful deep reading club. Here are some criteria I consider:
- Is the book the result of someone’s life’s work?
- Has it been life-changing for someone I know?
- Is it a favorite book of multiple individuals whom I deeply respect?
- Is it beautifully written?
I often discover exceptional books by exploring the reading lists of writers I admire. Their taste serves as a valuable guide in my search for remarkable reads.
Creating the Group
I organize both drop-in and long-term deep reading groups. Drop-in groups offer variety and an opportunity to meet new people in a more engaging manner compared to generic online meetups. On the other hand, long-term groups have their own beauty. Over time, you get to understand someone’s values through their evolving relationship with a book. For instance, my Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism book club has become a spiritual sangha after meeting for months.
The Experience of Reading Aloud
One surprising aspect of deep reading clubs is the slower pace. However, this unhurried rhythm is beneficial. Deep reading clubs create a relaxed and immersive environment. Reading aloud compels us to slow down, allowing us the time and space to comprehend confusing parts, experience strong emotions, or encounter unexpected surprises. While it’s easy to skip over these moments when reading alone, actively following along and annotating helps us notice and appreciate them. Reading aloud in a group also provides valuable insights into individual personalities. Unlike group Zoom events where the loudest voices dominate, taking turns to read allows everyone to contribute and reveals unique characteristics.
Discussions and Facilitation
The discussion process varies among different book clubs, depending on the book’s structure and group dynamics. I encourage reflective conversations that begin with individual responses, progress to small group discussions, and finally integrate back into the larger group. Being a good facilitator is akin to being a ball boy in tennis or the cables in a boxing ring. Your role is to ensure the smooth continuation of the collective play and redirect the group to the shared intention whenever they stray off course.
Why Deep Reading Clubs Are Amazing
Deep reading clubs offer several distinct advantages that exceed initial expectations:
Deep reading clubs create shared worldviews, reminiscent of religious experiences. The difference between hearing that “collaborators have read a book” and actually reading it together is monumental. These clubs foster a deep collective understanding.
There’s a marked difference between putting on headphones during a commute while mindlessly scrolling through social media and closing your eyes on a couch, surrounded by friends, and listening to Frank Sinatra on high-quality speakers. Deep reading allows you to luxuriate in a book just as you would in a relaxing bath.
Deep understanding requires patience, time, and reflection. While not every book deserves this level of attention, there are countless ones that do. Deep reading clubs cultivate and serve this open and curious mindset.
Conversations following the reading sessions are consistently intriguing, even when engaging with strangers. It feels like meeting a friend who knows you well and introduces you to someone with whom you instantly share common ground.
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