LitClub:  Bookmarks & Barstools
Baltimore, Maryland

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club bookmarks barstolls lg0BOOKS & BEER & BARSTOOLS... their all-time faves. This Baltimore group can read and party at the same time. And nary a drop—nor wordis spilled.

Terrific logo, by the way.
Thanks. We're proud of it. Leanne Bledsoe, one of our members, designed it.

You should be. So tell us how you got your start.
We wanted to find a way to support our locally-owned bars, and we also love to talk about books. So we combined two of our favorite things.

And when was that?
In 2012. We now have a Facebook page...with over 100 members, but we typically get anywhere from 5 to 15 at meetings.

Do you have to play beer pong to be a member?
No. Nor do we expect you to drink—though it's important that you're okay with being in a bar.

You meet only every other month. What do you do in between?
We always do an activity— Blind Date with a Book, movie screening for a book we read, literary walking tour, or an event at our local library (photo with red banner, left).

Tell us what you've read lately.
Sure. This year we've read...

Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Fault in Our Stars
Is Everyone Hanging Out
   Without Me?
The Sirens of Titan
King Peggy

Any favorites over the years?
Yes, these are the ones at the top of the list:
The Book Thief  ♦  Wild  ♦  Ender's Game. All are well-written books that bring out emotions, opinions, and discussion surrounding them.

Any disappointments?
The first book we read, Teju Cole's Open City, was a flop. It felt inaccessible to us, the story was fairly dry, and few members could connect with the characters. It did provide us a great discussion.

How is that—given that you didn't like the book?
Well, sometimes talking about what you DON'T like in a book is as interesting as what you do like. With Open City, we became more aware of what the author intended vs. what we perceived.

How about books that led to particularly good discussions?
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War was a great discussion. We talked about our culture's obsession with the zombie apocalypse, the way that different cultures view war, and the outcomes of a world epidemic of sorts.

We also enjoyed discussing Ender's Game. But there were a lot of mixed feelings with this one because of the author's stance on LGBTQ rights—in fact, because of that, none of us bought the book outright; we either borrowed it, or bought it used. For some, Ender's Game was a nostalgic read while for others, it was a new one.

How do you select your books?
We have a Facebook thread asking for suggestions. If there are more suggestions than there are months needed, we put it to a vote.

Any club rules?
Not really, except that it's "strongly suggested" you read the book. Also, we're all about respecting one another in the club (although this has never been an issue, so isn't an official "rule").

You mentioned above "Blind Date with a Book." How's that work?
♦ Choose a book (or two!) that you would like to swap.
♦ Wrap it in a brown paper bag.
♦ On the bag (or a tag), write a brief description of the book without giving too much away. It should sound similar to a dating profile:

For example: "Thought-provoking with a twist ending, this book will keep you up all night contemplating the meaning of life. Non-fiction. Memoir." or "Fun with a side of snark. You'll laugh your way through this book. Fiction."

♦ Bring it to the event and you'll choose a new book to go home with!

Community outreach programs?
We've sponsored a child in the summer reading program at our local library last year. We also participate in ONE MARYLAND, ONE BOOK every year, which means we read and discuss the book, and we visit the author's talk at the Baltimore Book Festival (See photo of Steven Galloway).

Is there anything you'd like to leave us with?
We are not a "closed" group in any way. If anyone in the area (Baltimore) wants to stop by for just one discussion (whether its because you're in town visiting, or just a book that you're particularly interested in), or you want to attend every month, you are welcome!

Finally, how would you describe your club?
We have a wide range of ages in our group—from early 20s to 60s—a range of genders and sexual orientation. All of our members are respectful and thoughtful toward one another. We are all huge book lovers—and most of us are beer lovers as well!

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