By December 22, 2007 0 Comments Read More →

BOOSTING BOOK GROUP ATTENDANCE: GO TO ITALY

Casa d’ItaliaMonthly attendance at my book group had dropped to two or three members. I was bussing back to the bookstore on book group night hoping someone would show up. I was ready to throw in the towel and consider that a five-year group had run its cycle and reached a dead end. Yesterday, however, when I sent out an email announcing our final meeting of the year, I received ten reservations. What changed?

At the University Book Store in Seattle, our monthly book group meets in what’s called the conference room. It’s a long, narrow room with most of the space taken up by a boardroom table. With blackboards and easels for product demonstrations, the meeting room is lined with black chairs where managers sit to agonize over budgets. It’s removed from the rest of the bookstore, around a balcony hallway and down beyond the managerial offices where no customer would dare to tread. Though originally it seemed delightful to have our own place for monthly meetings, I’m seeing it now as a liability.

When I’m through with work, I want to go home and relax. I want to read. I want to enjoy my cat’s company. If I’m going to ask people to leave their comfortable homes and give up a chunk of their evening to talk about books, the locale needs to be a spot where people are happy to be. I get so caught up in nudging along the conversation with questions and thinking about all the various aspects of the book under discussion that I forget the effect of the location.

I cancelled the November meeting. I was ready to cancel the December one, too. Fortunately I was persuaded by a couple stalwart members to have a holiday get-together somewhere else. So this is what I tried: I announced that our final meeting of the year would be in Casa d’Italia, a delightful little neighborhood restaurant that’s right across the street from my home. Inside it’s like a crowded little Italian market. Out back is a sheltered patio in a grape arbor with big heaters. The food is to die for. Every night your waiter rattles off a blackboard full of mouthwatering specials. But there’s also soup of the day. And their awesome hero sandwiches.

 And so Thursday evening, December 27, I will be ordering myself a hot meatball parmigiana “hero” sandwich and a glass of wine and enjoying the discussion of my favorite book of the year, Mario Vargas Llosa’s THE BAD GIRL, with ten book-loving friends. I can hardly wait. There’s something to be learned from this…

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About the Author:

Nick DiMartino is a university bookseller in Seattle, WA. He was a Booklist contributor from 2007 to 2009 and is the author of Seattle Ghost Story (1998) as well as numerous plays.

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