Friday, March 23rd, saw us kicking off the first instalment of Book Chats @ ABC Amsterdam, our new book club here at the ABC in Amsterdam. With a book to capture our imaginations, a diverse group of some of Amsterdam’s dedicated bookworms, and enough tea and coffee to keep us going until just before closing time, the evening’s conversation wound its way from musings on love and life to globalization and the refugee crisis – and covered a lot of the ground in between, too.
The jumping-off point for all this was Exit West, Mohsin Hamid’s compelling 2017 novel about love, migration, and magical doors. With maybe a little contention about how we all felt about the book itself, there was surely no issue with how many questions and ideas it furnished us with. Speaking for myself, at least, it felt like there was still so much territory to cover by the time our meetup’s end snuck up and called a halt to the conversation (until next month, at least). Frank Zappa once quipped that there are “so many books, so little time” – but sometimes it feels like there’s hardly enough time to get to the bottom of the books we do choose.
At the end of the day, I think this is what book clubs offer us as readers: a chance to read deeper, to pull more from a book than we might normally be able to on our own, and to do so in the good company of our fellow readers-in-arms. On these fronts I’d say our group hit the mark – bullseye – and Exit West served as a great doorway into a dynamic conversation. In the presence of a diverse and imaginative group of readers like ours last month, with voices from all walks of life and an array of cultural lenses, we see a story refracted from so many more angles than we get to on our own. And with Naomi Alderman’s The Power (a book I’ve been looking forward to for a while) coming up for the next meetup, on April 20th, I for one can’t wait to jump back in.
Thanks to everyone who came out and looking forward to seeing you next month!