Rediscovering the magic of reading at Stevenson Book Club
In a digital age where people’s attention is constantly grasped by second-long videos, one would most likely find the idea of reading tiresome. However, this is not the norm at the Stevenson Book Club. Meeting once every month, the members form an intimate forum where they debate quirky theories and diverse thoughts on books.
“The mission is really to foster a nice space to have engaging conversations, and also to have a social opportunity outside the classroom,” says Addy Blaxter, the co-founder of this club, “It’s about keeping in touch with friends and meeting new friends.” Inspired by her own experiences exchanging book opinions with friends over the summer of 2020, Blaxter came up with the idea of starting a club: “I was kind of surprised that Stevenson didn’t have a book club already. So I thought distance learning would be a good way to try it out for the first time.”
Just months later, after connecting with Dr. Karen Hiles, who later became the faculty sponsor, Blaxter and fellow junior Clea Caddell opened the Stevenson Book Club. Each month, the members meet, check-in, and discuss their thoughts. All of the books they read are voted by the club members. As of now, the club reads at an average speed of approximately 300-350 pages every month, covering authors such as Brit Bennet, and Fiona Davis.
Despite the difficulties brought by distance learning, Blaxter was able to use the digital platforms to unite members from all parts of the world. In addition to the monthly Zoom discussions, she sends out anonymous zoom polls on how people liked the readings and humorous Buzzfeed quizzes on the different books. Blaxter describes the vibe of the club to be fun, engaging, and relaxed, “It’s kind of nice to sit down and read a book for pleasure, and not have it be a school assignment. I think a lot of people in the club feel the same way. It’s nice to have an excuse now to read a book for pleasure.”
For the freshmen who make up a large percent of the club, these book discussions offer a chance to meet people from outside their academic classrooms. Phoebe Zeidberg, a first-year and an active member of the club, shares her undiluted fondness for this intimate community: “We have so much fun in every meeting! I love when we bond over our favorite characters, and often even more fun, our least favorite characters.”
For the upper-classmen members, the Book Club reignited a passion to seek knowledge from in between the pages. Junior Lilah Parker joined in hopes of getting back into the habit of reading: “I loved reading when I was younger, I would read all day every day when I could. Once I got to high school I didn't have as much time to go read or go to the library. I felt the book club would help me get back into reading, and remove the stress of having to pick a book.” Parker happily shares that she was right about joining. Not only does reading help her create time away from the phone, but Parker also rediscovered a pure, joyful curiosity for reading during her time at the Book Club: “I become so absorbed in the book [that] I can't imagine doing anything else. I remember feeling just like this as a kid, begging my mom to let me read at the dinner table and in the car.” “The escapism that one can find in books is often talked about, but for good reason. The ability to truly see someone else's world and use it as a distraction from your own is freeing,” Parker adds. Junior Romi Fernandez Riviello echoes this idea: “You don’t get the same information in any other way of learning,” She comments on the unique experience brought by the art of reading, “Rather than just seeing different videos where everything is already there and you’re watching what you’re asked to watch, here you’re reading and creating that world in your mind.”