A few weeks into my new job at UW Educational Outreach, I struck up a conversation with a coworker in the elevator. I noticed the book she had been reading on her lunch hour and asked what she thought of it, as it was one I had recently enjoyed. In the course of our exchange, she mentioned that a group of our colleagues had an office book club. I immediately asked to be invited to the next meeting.
For eight years my twin daughters and I were active in a mother-daughter book club, but when the girls headed off to college the moms decided not to continue the group. I missed the camaraderie and conversation with other readers, but hadn’t had the time or energy to find another club to join. As I learned more about the “UWEO & Friends Book Group” I was enthusiastic about getting involved.
Since 2006, our group has read over 50 books together, including novels, memoir and nonfiction. The method of selecting books and meeting details have evolved over the years, but the group still includes some original members.
Approximately 6-12 of us meet every six weeks to have lunch on The Ave and discuss a book. Our “rules” are simple: participate when and how you like, feel free to come to lunch whether or not you’ve read the book, take part in the conversation, and be aware that there will be “spoilers” if you haven’t finished (or even started) reading. Some years have included author talks and other special events, but the main point is simply to engage with other readers over a shared book and a meal.
One of the things I find really special about our group is that it includes people who work in different roles, departments, and levels of our unit, who may not have any reason to interact while doing our jobs. We’re also joined by friends who have retired from UWEO or moved on to other positions at the UW; the book club is the perfect way to stay in touch. A bonus is that I don’t have to fit our meetings into my personal calendar on evenings or weekends and never have to clean my house or prepare food to host the group!
The UWEO & Friends Book Group has been an unexpected benefit of my job for the past year and a half and I look forward to many more good books and growing friendships ahead.
Interested in starting a UW group of your own? We’ve created an activity toolkit to make it as easy as possible. Register any activity or event with The Whole U and we can provide promotion and a consultation. We’ve got lots of ideas–from using a Catalyst survey for book selection to creative ways to stretch a discretionary budget. And if you use Facebook to organize your group, let us know and we’ll share it on The Whole U page!
Judith Wood is an Operations Manager with UW Professional and Continuing Education. Before coming to work for UW she was lucky to have family-friendly jobs at her local elementary school and the Phinney Neighborhood Association. When she’s not working, she’s probably singing, dancing, playing Scrabble with her sister, cooking or reading a book.