Get to Know the Cozy Corner Book Club

Get to Know the Cozy Corner Book Club-featured

Leader/Organizer: Lindsey Tomsu, Teen/YA Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library in Algonquin, Illinois

Years of operation: Six months! (Started January 2019)

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Tell us about your book group.

Cozy Corner Book Club is a book club for cozy mystery lovers! At my library,
we have a lot of book clubs, including groups for nonfiction, classics, contemporary fiction, adult readers of YA books, etc. I also run a teen-only book club that reads anything (kids, teen, and adult books of all genres). I knew cozy mysteries were a big hit in our community and was surprised we never offered a cozy book club before. So I began one! The Cozy Corner is for teens and adults (ages 14+). And if weather and illness didn’t keep interrupting our meetings, we’d have about 10 members. My favorite story about Book Club so far is: during the first meeting, three people showed up, and two of them didn’t even know what a cozy was! Because they are in other library book clubs, I teased them, saying, “You are just obsessed with book clubs! You saw a new one and just signed up!” After I explained cozies to them, they’ve been enjoying the books as nice, quick alternatives to some of the more gory thrillers they usually read!

How does your group make its reading selections?

Knowing that many cozy readers seem to read everything, I decided the Cozy Corner Book Club would read books based around a theme. Each month, we alternate between all reading the same book and reading a theme-dictated book of our choice. This way, even if some people have already read the chosen book for one month, they can still come in, discuss it with others, pick something they know they haven’t read yet for
the next month—and get a lot of ideas from what everyone else decides to read!

In January 2019, our theme was Senior Snoops (alliteration and puns are important in my theme titles), and we read Parnell Hall’s A Clue for the Puzzle Lady. In February, our theme was Culinary Catastrophes, and everyone picked their own cooking, baking, or restaurant-themed cozy. March highlighted Doggies in Danger, and we read Laurien Berenson’s A Pedigree to Die For. And our theme for April was Hobbyist Homicides, so we read cozies featuring hobbies like knitting, thrifting, etc.

Our Book Club meets the first Wednesday of the month, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. For months where we read the same title, copies from all the libraries in our consortium are put on my Book Club library card. This way, members can immediately check out a copy without having to hunt it down on their own! If it’s a “choose your own cozy” month, I bring in a bunch of theme-appropriate cozies from our collection for members to check out (again, saving them time!). I never assign or recommend a cozy that is not number one in a series. 

Which book did your group collectively like the most this past year?

We had our biggest turnout when we read Murder Past Due, the first book in Miranda James’s Cat in the Stacks series, for our Cat Caper-themed May meeting. Ten people (adults and teens) attended and they unanimously loved the book and said they’d read more of the series in the future!

Which is the most divisive book your group has read, and why?

I think one of our shared reads, Laurien Berenson’s A Pedigree to Die For, fits in this category. Many of the members felt it had too many characters, and that it might have been a first-time book, so was flawed in that “new” author way. They were surprised to learn there are more than 20 volumes in the series, and they’re intrigued to keep reading to see if the books get even better.

How do your group discussions work?

As most cozies do not come with reading guides or discussion questions, I ask some generic mystery book club questions (have you read it before? how many titles are in the series?), and discuss characters, clues, red herrings, if anyone solved the mystery before the end, and so forth. During the “choose our own cozy” months, we go around the table one by one and share what book we read, mention how many books are in the series, offer a short plot description, and discuss what we liked/disliked, and if we would keep reading the series. For these sessions, I bring down pens and pieces of paper for everyone, so they can write down any titles that interest them.

What is your group most looking forward to reading this year?

I don’t know what my members are looking forward to, but I am most looking forward to November’s Classic Conundrums theme; I’ll be making everyone read The Secret of the Old Clock, the first volume in the Nancy Drew series. Aside from being a librarian, I am also a cultural historian who does scholarly research on the cultural importance of youth series books. I know most of my members (if they read Nancy Drew as a child) probably read the 1959 revised edition, and I want to teach them all about the 1930 original, too! As for future themes, members can anticipate Pop Culture Peeps, Paperback Peril, Poisonous Professions, Gumshoe Ghosts, Historical Hijinks, and Fatal Festivities.

What is the best piece of advice you’d give a group that is just getting started?         

Give it time—membership will grow. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who want to come, but, because of the weather, have been unable to. My members think we’re going to have a FULL crowd come summer!

Are you looking for new members?

Of course! Anyone age 14 and up can join and they don’t need an Algonquin card to do so (though they will need an Illinois library card to check out the titles we read together). 

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