After more than a year of remote meetings, Historic Newton’s History Book Club is eagerly planning to return to in-person meetings in the fall.
Michael Collier, a seven-year member of the group, said with the virtual format “in principle, more people could join, but actually, they don’t” and added that they’d “love to have more people.”
“When we were meeting in person, we usually got 15 to 20 people,” Peter Terris, the moderator of the club, said. “But when we went virtual, the numbers shrank.”
During the pandemic, the club has continued meeting on Zoom, where its primary focus remains discussing historical texts, which Terris said are integral to understanding present day matters.
“You can’t understand what’s going on unless you have some context,” he said. “You wouldn’t understand race relations today without understanding that history.”
Members said the book club fostered a sense of a connection during a socially isolated time, especially for seniors in the city.
“You notice that everybody is older,” Collier said. “There aren’t many other young people who have joined us.”
Collier said he appreciates “the exchange of ideas” in the book club and described it as “a big part of culture.”
“Every movement, every ideology,” he said. “It’s all happening at the same time.”
Kenneth Boger, another member of the club, said he preferred Zoom meetings over those in person. He said due to the format of the discussions that occur in a book club, Zoom meetings were just as effective as in person.
“I think you could actually have a book club effectively, over a Zoom call, even when the pandemic restrictions are over,” he said. “I think it would be just as effective, so I would vote for it.”
Boger said the book club “brings a lot of people together who are community members, most of whom didn’t know each other before.”
“You can make friends around a common discussion topic and that can broadband even further and you can extend those friendships even further into the community,” he said.
Thinking about the future, Collier said that he doesn’t think a hybrid format could work for book clubs.
“I find that there’s a problem if you’re going to try and do both,” he said. “If you’re trying to have a discussion, especially a discussion where you don’t have a single person as a speaker.”
Allen Cohen, another member of the club, discussed the difficulties of participants consistently talking over one another on Zoom.
“If someone’s trying to get a word in, whoever’s the loudest basically wins, that’s how Zoom works,” he said.
Terris said he plans to resume in-person meetings in September.
“Humans are social animals. We like being with other people,” Cohen said. “I think Zoom is a compromise we made so that we didn’t have to stop meeting, but nobody really likes it.”
Sebastian Jaramillo and Alexandra Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.