BAFTA Award-winning comedy The Book Group, which aired on OSN a couple of years ago, didn’t do much to promote the idea of book clubs, reinforcing the stereotype that these groups are often populated by rather strange individuals. Fortunately, many people are still steadfastly drawn to the idea, prompting the popular Gérard Café in Downtown Dubai to launch its own literary group.
The café’s owner, 30-year-old Mohammed Nahawi from Jordan, decided the community was lacking a book club, so enlisted the help of Dubai’s CS PR Group (a female PR organisation) and Pakistani banker Farhan Syed (the man behind the now dissolved Dubai Book Club) to put something together. But why the lack of literary groups in our city? ‘People lead very busy lives in Dubai, and find it hard to dedicate time to reading,’ explains Farhan. ‘Despite their best intentions, I’ve learned the hard way that people are unable to commit to a reading group.’ He alludes to the collapse of Dubai Book Club, which he’s hoping to resurrect, with an emphasis on reading short fiction, rather than full-length novels.
In a time-pressed city, it seems bite-size material is key. And despite being burned by past experiences, Farhan is optimistic about this new venture at Gérard. ‘The group is open to everyone and anyone. Hardcore readers can share opinions, and those who are just trying to use the group to become regular readers can use it as a way to get into a lasting reading habit,’ he says. There are no hard-and-fast rules laid out by Farhan or café owner Mohammed (who will also be attending the club), and it will be very much a democracy, although people who want to attend should be willing to set aside 20 to 30 minutes of their time for reading each day. This should be more than enough to finish the chosen novel in three to four weeks.
The next book the group will be reading is thriller Crossing, the debut novel by Andrew Xia Fukuda, which will be discussed on Saturday June 9. If you don’t think you’ll be able to read the book by then, there will be another book chosen for the Saturday June 23 meeting. ‘Some people think reading group discussions are very rigid, and that members are expected to possess certain literary knowledge before they can contribute. Nothing could be further from the truth,’ says Farhan.
If you’ve been searching for a reading group for some time, this could be the perfect option: a chance to join a brand new club and meet kindred spirits who share a passion for reading. And if you need some advice, we’ve also included a few of our favourite book club tips.
Gérard Café’s Club will meet at 5pm on Saturday June 9; the next event will be held on Saturday June 23. Gérard Café, Downtown Dubai (04 545 8354).
Essential book club dos and don’ts
Read the book – you’d be amazed how many people don’t. The club won’t work if only a few people read the novel and everyone else pretends. And no, watching the film adaptation doesn’t count.
Act pretentious. Many people are put off by the notion that a book club will be full of the kind of annoying people from your school who would answer every single question presented by the teacher. Don’t be that person.
Keep going with the book, even if you don’t like it. If you just can’t stand it, think of an interesting reason for hating it. You’ll then be able to share your point of view at the next meeting.
Two more to try: social clubs
Emirates Photography Club
Budding and pro photographers alike are welcome to join this group, which meets for breakfast brainstorms to come up with a theme. Members then present the fruits of their labours via slideshow. www.meetup.com/emiratesphotoclub.
The Tiffin Club
This adults-only group is all about enjoying good food and good company. They’re always looking for new members and suggestions for ‘undiscovered dining delights’ around Dubai. What’s more, cuisine types and restaurants are put to a group vote before being chosen.