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Books

Why we’re starting a book club

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - APRIL 22: Jason Ham, 23, of Los Angeles rests his head on Baily Pham’s legs wh
Jason Ham and Baily Pham enjoy reading together during the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC on April 22, 2018.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Here’s the secret about book clubs.

They’re not just about the books.

They’re about getting off Facebook. Getting off the couch. Getting out of the house. A good book is a great excuse to bring people together. Add a glass of wine and the conversation flows.

And we know — from 24 years of experience with the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books — that Southern Californians love to talk about what they’re reading. This past weekend, more than 150,000 people turned out for the festival, which wrapped up Sunday night on the USC campus.

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This year, however, the spirit of the book festival will continue year-round in a new, more intimate forum.

We’re getting ready to launch the Los Angeles Times Book Club, just in time for summer reading.

Every month we’ll share a book club selection, publish stories exploring the topic and invite you to read along. Then we’ll host a community book club evening with the featured author and invite you to join that too.

The focus will be on books and authors relevant to Southern California and the West — books that illuminate and explain our unique landscape, culture, identity and history. We’ll delve into fiction, nonfiction and memoir, bringing in world-class storytellers to explore such topics as immigration and entertainment, food and travel, criminal justice and technology, sports and social issues.

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The new Los Angeles Times Book Club is part of the Times’ broader efforts to revitalize coverage of books and ideas with a decidedly Southern California focus. Our mission is to get people talking again by making your newspaper not merely something to read every day but something to experience. Something that brings us together. Readers will have the opportunity to join in conversation with leading novelists, newsmakers and thought leaders, and connect with members of the Times staff too.

I’m the lucky editor who gets to jump-start our new book club and celebrate the power of storytelling and community engagement that comes with a “common read.” I first experienced the wonder such events can inspire in 2004 when I edited “My California,” an anthology featuring work by 27 of the state’s most talented novelists, nonfiction authors, poets and journalists. The book became a bestseller, raised more than $100,000 for children’s writing programs in California, and sparked a series of common read forums up and down the state.

Since then I’ve started newspaper book clubs in Southern California and the Pacific Northwest. The enthusiastic response I‘ve found shows just how hungry we all are for meaningful experiences and in-person discussions where stories and ideas can be shared with humanity and nuance the internet doesn’t always allow.

So keep an eye out for the Los Angeles Times Book Club, launching this summer. And sign up at latimes.com/bookclub to learn about upcoming events and book club news.


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