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Vancouver book clubs offer infinite variety

In a city where it can sometimes seem difficult to make friends, book clubs build a sense of community

Members of the Finnegans Wake Reading Group, which formed about nine years ago, meet monthly to puzzle through Joyce’s book a few pages at a time.

Amy Logan/For Metro

Members of the Finnegans Wake Reading Group, which formed about nine years ago, meet monthly to puzzle through Joyce’s book a few pages at a time.

From groups devoted to finishing the 1,079-page Infinite Jest together to a posse of cocktail enthusiasts sharing recipe books, Vancouver is home to an eclectic range of book clubs. And

Vancouverites love to read. A recent Amazon survey revealed that, for the second year in a row, Vancouver boasts the highest number of book readers in Canada.

The Vancouver Bartender's Book Club meets monthly, often at a restaurant, to explore the world of cocktails through the written word. Collaborating on ideas and recipes gleaned from that month's reading, the participants learn new techniques and share ideas. The Vancouver Aquarium has an online book club that encourages participants to learn more about the natural world, with a focus on marine life and conservation.

The Amnesty International Book Club meets to discuss books related to current human rights situations around the world. Collage Collage even offers a book club for kids, with discussion and themed art activities to inspire a love of reading in the next generation.

Some groups focus on a single book. An online reading group dedicated to getting through the notoriously dense Infinite Jest has been working though it together this summer. The Vancouver Finnegans Wake Reading Group, one of numerous Finnegans Wake groups worldwide, formed more than nine years ago, with members meeting monthly to read the multi-layered text aloud, about three pages at a time, and trying to decipher its meaning.

Rebecca Eames has been a member of her Vancouver book club for just over two years. With a focus on contemporary fiction, the all-female club often takes part in heated discussions. Ranging from Canadian fiction like Joseph Boyden's The Orenda to autobiographies like Patti Smith's Just Kids, " the potential and variety of conversations is infinite. It's encouraged me to read more, to think more critically, " said Eames. She finds it very satisfying to have "focussed conversations about art, literature and spirituality with a group of smart women."

In a city where it can sometimes seem difficult to make friends, book clubs build a sense of community. Since Eames's group began, they have all grown very close. There have been three engagements, one wedding, and several babies.

One memorable meeting took place at on Pasley Island. It was a stormy day, and they rode across the wind-tossed ocean in a small tin boat, but no one backed out. Eames said she's always amazed at people's commitment.

"There is almost an unspoken contract that we will meet at least once a month for the rest of our lives."

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