Book Club Spotlight: North & West Seattle

On a ship bound for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634, religious renegade Anne Hutchinson founded what might count as the very first American book club: a group of English women, disgruntled at being shut out of discussions, met to analyze the weekly sermons. In the centuries since, book clubs have been vehicles for many kinds of concerns; but always, they are efforts to set up a community within a landscape, to embrace the social dimension of reading, to challenge us to make reading and thinking an intrinsic part of our friendships.

Seattle has the lucky problem of being flooded with book clubs. They’re at nearly every independent bookstore and library branch you can name, and many come tailor-made to readers’ interests: there’s the 21st Century Science Fiction Book Club at Ada’s Technical Books; the art aficionado’s book club at the SAM; the singer-songwriter’s Bushwick Book Club. There’s even the Sorrento Silent Reading Party for those who’d like to forgo the talking altogether.

But private book clubs are harder to learn about. Their proceedings happen behind closed doors, in living rooms, basements, and backyards, between friends, colleagues, neighbors. And yet, they’re a valuable part of Seattle’s literary community: even the most tight-knit book clubs stimulate local conversations. They influence which books get passed from hand to hand. Many have been attending SAL events for years.

To hear more about them, Sonder is kicking off a “Book Club Spotlight” series, interviewing book clubs around Seattle, finding out who they’re reading, their involvement with SAL, and to give them the chance to ask SAL authors their questions. Our first Book Club Spotlight is on a reading group who meet in one another’s houses in the North Seattle area and in West Seattle. The ten members—Jennifer, Ann, Karen E., Karen R., Lindsay, Toddy, Helen, Kristiana, Mary, and Kristen—were kind enough to share their favorite selections, plus a great question for Ann Patchett…


What is your book club reading right now?

This month we’re reading Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1) by Louise Penny, and next month we’ll tackle Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

Favorite book you’ve read as a group?

The book that received top votes from our group was The Goldfinch by Donna Tart.

Favorite SAL book? Have you attended any SAL events together?

Our favorite SAL book would have to be All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and we went to hear his talk: “Some Thoughts On the Importance of Artistic Failure In Six Parts.” A few of us also attended the Elizabeth Gilbert, Geraldine Brooks, and Ta-Nehisi Coates SAL events; and of course, The Moth Mainstage.


In addition to answering these questions, Jennifer’s group also supplied their own question for Ann Patchett, who opened our 2016/17 Literary Arts Series on Monday, September 19. SAL’s Executive Director, Ruth Dickey, asked Ann this question during her Q&A session:

Many writing instructors advise to have your audience in mind when writing your story. Do you follow this advice, and if so, who is your audience?

Click below to listen to Ann’s response:


Thank you, Jennifer, Ann, Karen E., Karen R., Lindsay, Toddy, Helen, Kristiana, Mary, and Kristen!

Do you have a book club in Seattle that attends SAL events? Want your own chance to ask a SAL author a question at our Q&As? Email SAL’s Events Coordinator, Alison Stagner, at astagner@lectures.org to learn more about our Book Club Spotlight and set up an interview.

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