Campus clubs: Turning pages with UBC Book Club

In just over a year, the UBC Book Club has gone from a small Instagram group chat to a Discord server which currently hosts over 270 students and counting. The book club brings together a community of avid readers at UBC, meeting monthly to discuss pre-selected books, and connecting online to share their favourite reads.

We chatted with the presidents and founders of the club, Bella Dufresne, a third-year English literature and French double major, and Sophie Ahola, a third-year honours English student, about the growth of the club over the past year.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did the UBC Book Club get started?

Sophia Ahola: I think it was very much a spur of the moment idea. Last year at the Clubs Fair, we were walking around and thought, “Oh, there should be a book club, right?” There wasn't, and we were like, “Should we just start one?” So we posted on our [Instagram] story an unofficial, “Does anyone want to join a book club?” and that’s how it started.

Could you walk me through the timeline of how the club developed?

Bella: We started off on Instagram as a little group chat. Our first real meeting was in October 2021, and it kept going from there. We applied to become an official club over the summer, and became official this August. I think the biggest thing for us was when we saw the club was growing and people were trying to join our little Instagram group chat but it was too big because I think the limit is 20 or 35 people. So we had to make the Discord which was kind of crazy.

How does it work? You get a membership and then you read. Then you show up to a book meeting and talk about what you read?

Bella: Yeah, pretty much. Membership is only $5 for the entire year, and we have one book meeting and one social every month. The book meetings themselves are about an hour and a half, and we’ve had about 15 people per meeting. They can either go, you know, English-major-analytical, or like, “which character did you hate the most?” There’s a wide range. And there are four activity leaders, so at least one will show up to lead the meeting.

Sofia: We do a different theme every month. October was spooky, November is sci-fi, for example. People will put in suggestions for what they want to read based on the theme. Then there’s multiple rounds of voting on Discord, and the most popular book is chosen to be read. Last month, we read Coraline, and this month, we’re doing Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — which won out against Cinder and The Handmaid’s Tale!

Do you see the club growing past this at all? Or are you just thinking of keeping it to this — small book meetings and socials every now and then?

Sofia: I think there's definitely room for growth. Now with the 15 attendees and potential for more, we're thinking about changing around the format. Should we be splitting people into little groups? There's definitely still things we are figuring out about how to make it more fun for everybody.

I’m sure you will, it sounds like people are already having fun.

Bella: It’s an effort to read books. I’m very impressed that people are showing commitment.

Want to join this local community of readers? Find more information @ubc.bookclub on Instagram!