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Books & Bars Gives a Twist to Book Clubs

23 February 2013

From Publishers Weekly:

Publishers, booksellers, and other booklovers have all mixed books with adult beverages at one time or another. One Twin Cities entrepreneur, however, has brewed a potent concoction with the tagline, “Reinventing the Book Club – as a Show,” that’s creating a sustained buzz. Books & Bars, which entered its 10th year this month, is a monthly public book club during which anywhere between 12-200+ participants — 60%-65% female/35%-40% male (depending upon the book being discussed), many of them in that elusive 20-40-year-old age range — eat, drink, and talk about books for 90 minutes while moderator, Jeff Kamin, 42, who performed improv comedy in Los Angeles clubs for four years before moving to Minnesota in 2001, both leads the discussion and entertains the crowd. It’s a heady mixture of intelligent conversation, juicy author and book gossip, and clever witticisms.

. . . .

“I wish there was a Books & Bars program in every city in the country,” Towles told PW, “[It] has successfully brought the organized reading trend to a younger generation, by making it a little more open, nocturnal, and irreverent.” Strayed recalled, “It was packed. I signed books for more than an hour. The atmosphere is lively and fun. [Kamin] strikes a wonderful balance between seriousness and laughter. I’d do it again!”

. . . .

There are certain rules regarding book selections, done in consultation with his audiences, Kamin explains. “The book has to be discussion-worthy. That’s the one I don’t want to ever break.”

Other requirements (which have been ignored at one time or another over the course of almost a decade selecting, to date, 125 books) include the book being available in paper format, and not selecting more than one title by an author. Selections are 80% literary fiction and 20% nonfiction, most of them critically-acclaimed bestsellers from the large houses, such as March’s selection, The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Once in a while, a classic is selected, like To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee, or a midlist title from a small press, such as Graywolf Press’ Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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