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LitClub: Books & Bars
Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU take a book club and put it in a bar? That's what Jeff Kamin wondered 10 years ago. He's now running 3 meetings a month for those who appreciate a little "liquid courage" when talking about books. We spoke with Jeff. . .
Liquid courage—that's good. How many courageous souls turn out for Books & Bars?
Quite a few—over 2,200 fans follow us on Facebook and 1,800 subscribe to our newsletter. Each month 175 make it to one of our three Tuesday meetings.
So you're not exactly sitting around a cozy circle. How does it work?
It's really a show with audience participation: a book discussion, sometimes with an author in attendance (or on screen), and a bit of improv comedy on my part.
I moderate, roaming through the audience with two wireless mics for those who want to speak. When no one's talking I keep things moving with jokes and some research on the author and book.
It's fun, but it's also a serious book club discussion. Take a look at our demo video on our website if you want to see us in action.
You've clearly had a little practice at this.
A little. My background's in improvisation, both performing and teaching. I'm also a producer for Minnesota Public Radio...and an emcee for various cultural events.
Who are your members?
Minneapolis is considered one of the most literate cities in the country, and our membership reflects that—young singles, married-with-children, and more mature readers. We also dispel the notion that book clubs are for women only: about 40% are men.
Here's where you tell us what you've read.
We've read some impressive books over the past year.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Fault in Our Stars
How Should a Person Be?
Orphan Master’s Son
Where’d You Go Bernadette
Carry the One
Rin Tin Tin: Life and Legend
Turn of Mind
Tragedy of Arthur
Any favorites over the years?
These are some of the real standouts:
Kafka on the Shore
Ready Player One
Let the Great World Spin
History of Love
Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Raw Shark Texts
Art of Fielding
Carter Beats the Devil
How about disappointments?
Some books people just didn't care for: The Dispossessed, Atmospheric Disturbances, and Goodbye Lemon. Others, like Beautiful Ruins, were well loved, but we didn't have much to say about them. The discussions weren't as deep we expected.
You occasionally invite authors to your meetings.
Yes. Peter Heller of The Dog Stars joined us last year (2013). We also do video chats—Carol Anshaw (Carry the One), Susan Orlean (Rin Tin Tin), and Arthur Phillips (The Tragedy of Arthur) skyped with us over the past year.
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