Reading Revival: Bringing back the lost art of book talk

Fred the bookstore cat. (Photo via @stillwater_books on IG).

Pre-COVID, I found that a lot of people in my generation and younger weren’t big readers. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, between the never-ending stream of content on phones, tablets, and TVs, younger generations didn’t seem to have an interest in picking up a book for fun. I even ran into people who didn’t know what kind of book they would be interested in reading, if they were to read. Fast forward to 2024 and reading is cool again thanks to the help of TikTok trends — what the young folks call “BookTok.” As a lifelong reader, I love that reading has reached the mainstream in such a creative and positive fashion.


What does this have to do with book clubs? True, book clubs never went away, but with the rise of interest in reading, a lot of people sit within the confines of their homes and watch videos of other people talking about books. There’s nothing wrong with this (I’d be lying if I said I don’t do the same), but book clubs offer ways for people to get out and have the lively, thought-provoking conversations they watch other people having on TikTok. Book clubs are also usually super adaptable in the sense that, if you’re not interested in the book being read one month, you can sit it out, and hop back in the following month. It’s not like school when you’re forced to read something you don’t want to. Read it if you want, and don’t if you don’t want to. And if you do read it, you’ll almost always discover something new that you wouldn’t necessarily have been drawn to before.

One bookstore that is reviving the greatness of book clubs is West Warwick’s (previously Pawtucket’s) Stillwater Books. Stillwater offers a great selection of new and used books, and operates as a publishing house. Their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and they shine a spotlight on local authors.

I attended Stillwater’s March Book Club and I was quite excited, as I had been looking to join a book club for some time now. The book of the month was The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon, a historical fiction about a midwife who helps solve a high-profile crime in a remote New England town. The staff held two meetings for this club: One was held on a Wednesday at 7pm, and the other on a Saturday at 12:30pm. This was done with the intent to be flexible with schedules, but it also provided the opportunity for clubbers to go to both meetings (if they wanted to) to hear even more thoughts about the book and engage in further conversation.

Stillwater’s book club is held toward the back of the store in a cozy area complete with refreshments and good company. The book club is attended by members of the public, and a few of Stillwater’s staff, owner included. As an incredible bonus, Stillwater is home to the cutest bookstore cat ever: Freddy. Freddy made a star appearance at the book club, though he was far more interested in catching falling leaves than sharing his thoughts on midwifery. The staff had discussion questions prepared for the group that sparked some mind-opening conversation, and there was plenty of room for clubbers to share any questions of their own for the group. This is something that I personally love about book clubs — it’s a super collaborative experience.

In all honesty, alongside my excitement, I was a little bit nervous about joining a book club, because of those anxious thoughts associated with speaking in front of others, of not knowing what to say, and of being a bit shy. However, the staff at Stillwater Books made their book club a comfortable and utterly enjoyable experience that even the shyest among us can find refuge in. I’m a firm believer that nothing brings a group of people together quite like a good book (or even a bad one), and Stillwater Books’ book club reaffirms this.

For more info, follow @stillwater_books on IG.