A bar and a DJ at a book club meeting?

That wasn’t how it was scripted, but it made for one of the more unusual sessions of the Girly Book Club’s Boston Chapter.

The chapter is hosted by Lauren Hughes, who moved to Boston from Seattle in early 2017 and was looking to get back into reading more and making friends in her new surroundings. She shares the hosting duties with Hana Vackova. Hughes is a Senior Product Designer at Wayfair, recently married, and has a four-year-old Australian Shepherd named Ludo, after the character from The Labyrinth.

Lauren Hughes

The chapter has 2,000 members in its Meetup Group, and the live monthly meetings, which take place religiously the last Monday of every month in the library of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, draw anywhere from 20 to 50 people. Many attendees have relocated, either from abroad or from other places in the states. “These women are generally using the book club as a way to start being social in their new city and to make new friends — and it’s exciting to help facilitate that,” Hughes says.

So what’s with the bar and DJ? “Normally it’s quiet and easy to chat in our space,” says Hughes. “But in January, when we showed up, a fully stocked bar appeared where we normally sit — which actually gave us easier access to the wine. The real problem was that there was also a DJ set up in the opposite corner with a full booth!

“We were a little confused and shocked. In the end, we all laughed at how ridiculous it was, and what a random first impression it must have made on our new attendees! We did ask if we could keep the bar every month though!”

Turning to books, Hughes says what she loves about the book club is that it forces her to read books she wouldn’t have necessarily picked off the shelf herself. “I also just thoroughly enjoy hearing how different people interpret the same book in so many different ways,” she says. “It makes me look at the book in a whole new light by the end of the meeting, and makes me reassess my own thoughts.”

Hughes recalls a couple of books that caused some heated discussions. “It Ends With Us sparked a lot of discussion,” she says. “On the surface the book seems like a lighthearted read, but it had a lot of serious undertones that people had a lot of opinions about.”

She also mentioned Lily & The Octopus as “an interesting book that was very divisive! People seemed to either love it or hate it; there were no middle-ground opinions. I for one loved it – it made me laugh and cry, but I’m a huge dog person so I feel like I was always going to be a fan of this one!”

Hughes says there is such a varied group of women “with so many different opinions and perceptions. We have some super strong personalities along with quieter members, but they all come back month after month as it’s such a relaxed atmosphere and everyone gets the chance to put their point of view across.”

“Our age range is so unique – we have plenty of students along with women in their 50’s and 60’s.”

When Hughes joined the group, she says she wanted to challenge herself to read books that she wouldn’t normally pick up. “There have been plenty that when I read the blurb I think  ‘this isn’t for me’ but then I go ahead and read it and love it. Dark Matter is the most recent one. I hate science fiction and really thought I would struggle with it, but I ended up giving it five stars!”

“I was also really excited to join the book club as a member to make friends and have a social night out in a city where I knew no one. And now, well over a year later, I am still excited and thoroughly look forward to book club every month.”

Hughes says friendships often extend beyond the club get-togethers. “Lots of people meet up outside – they’ll grab coffee or stay later after the meetings and have another glass of wine. There is a Facebook social group that originally came from the book club meetup, along with a Goodreads group, and most recently a big group of women met up at the Boston Public Library to hang out one Saturday afternoon.”

Asked if she could be any fictional character, Hughes said, “I’ve always wanted to go to Hogwarts! I would happily spend some time being Hermione Granger — smart, intelligent, a kick-ass women who gets to live in a world of magic.”

As for the book that changed her life? “I don’t know if a book has actually changed my life. A lot of them have made me think a lot about life, my life and the lives of others around me. There are two books I always return to and recommend above all others because they continue to make me think and question: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

For anyone considering joining the book club, Hughes advises, “In the words of Nike – Just do it!  It’s a great and very welcoming group of women, there is always lots of laughter, plenty of glasses of wine, quite often cookies and, of course, great discussions.”

“We encourage everyone to come to the meeting no matter where you got to in the book. It’s not about finishing – we know life can get in the way – it’s about having an enjoyable evening, great conversations with intelligent, interesting women who all have a common passion for reading!

Interested in joining a Girly Book Club chapter in your neighborhood? Visit https://girlybookclub.com for everything you need to know!

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