In lower Olmstead, a group of book lovers laughed over how much they hated Colleen Hoover, ‘Which book or author do you hate?’, apparently being the perfect ice-breaker. Drake R.E.A.D.S.’ first meeting of the year was filled with icebreaker activities, elections and book selections.
Last September, then first-year student Rachel Hallock took it upon herself to found Drake’s official book club: Drake R.E.A.D.S. Hallock now acts as president of the organization.
“I had just gone to the activities fair and I noticed that there weren’t any bookish clubs besides Sigma Tau Delta, which didn’t seem to be focused on reading books,” Hallock said. “It was more so any English activity, so I was like ‘I want to start my book club’ because I was looking forward to doing it in college since my high school didn’t have one either.”
Finding members last year involved putting up posters in Olmsted and getting the English department to email everyone with an English major or minor. This tactic gained the club 12 members. This year, they had around 30 members come to the first meeting. Hallock said this is due to their secret weapon: the activities fair and being officially affiliated with Drake.
Every club at Drake must register as a temporary student organization for a semester before gaining official status. Hallock explained that the club had to meet once a month for that semester and have two executive council meetings to gain official status.
“Being involved on campus as a Drake [temporary registered student organization] really helps because last year, we weren’t allowed to use Drake in our name at all since we were not technically affiliated with Drake,” Hallock explained. “This year we are affiliated with Drake. We’re an official RSO this year, so I think that also helps just being able to have it advertised on the Drake University page or even just putting it up in Olmsted.”
According to first-year members, connecting with people through similar interests and bonding with members over the books they read is a staple of the club.
Alyssa Speck, co-events chair, finds that it is important to find a space where people encourage you to read.
“Having a book club is important because it allows people to read for fun,” Speck said. “Especially in an academic setting, where reading is so often for a grade or because you have to, it is important that people have the opportunity to read and have it be in a more relaxed environment.”
The club’s main focus this year is on diversity in reading. The “READS” in Drake R.E.A.D.S. stands for Readers Eagerly Analyze Diverse Stories. After reading “Loveless” by Alice Oseman last year and spending a club meeting talking about asexual identity, Hallock was inspired to bring more diverse stories to book club again this year, so they can continue to have really strong discussions.
“We’re trying to focus on diversity and representation in novels,” Hallock said. “Diversity meaning both genres and actual diversity. We’re kind of just looking to read things all over the board.”
To achieve this goal, Drake R.E.A.D.S. has assigned a theme to each month, and the book they will be reading will fit into said theme. This month’s theme was New Year, New Read, meaning the book for this month had to be a new release. Next month’s theme is Murder of the Books, meaning the club will read a banned book. November’s is a Ticket to Ride, so the book is required to be set in another country.
Hallock said that creating these themes will make them think outside of the box when it comes to title selection and get them to read different books than what they would normally. First-year member and co-events chair, Audrey Almeida, said that a book club is the perfect space to talk about diverse topics.
“I think it is interesting how you can read and learn about different cultures,” Almeida said. “I feel like it is such a safe place when you are in a book club because you are all bonding over the same thing.”
As co-events chairs, Almeida and Speck are in charge of setting up activities outside of the meetings for club bonding. Almeida said that she would like to collaborate with SAB to have a film adaptation of a book the club read be the movie for Free Movie Friday. Additional collaboration includes working with the literacy fraternity or the writers club on campus.
Additionally, this year Drake R.E.A.D.S. is planning to put together their second book drive. They will collect books and donate them to local shelters. Hallock said that this will most likely be an annual event for Drake R.E.A.D.S.
“Everyone deserves a chance to read,” Hallock said. “A bunch of people have books that they don’t need anymore from school or anything like that. We will take them all.”
This month’s book is “Divine Rivals” by Rebecca Ross and the first meeting to discuss the halfway point is on Sept. 15. Hallock encourages everybody to try out Drake R.E.A.D.S. because it just might spark a love of reading.
“Being able to pick a book that you want to read and having a great community of readers surrounding you, I think it’s an amazing thing,” Hallock said. “I think it’s nice to see friendships emerge from the group. Those things are the great things about our community and club because everyone just loves reading so much that they want to make friends with each other and want to bond over it.”
Previously published in The Times Delphic