National Read-a-Book Day was instituted to support the joy and importance of reading — but reading is so often a solitary endeavor. Jefferson County Public Library is teaming up with BookBar to change that while still honoring the spirit of the day, with an event they're calling Single Reader Mix & Mingle, an evening of trivia, games, prizes, food and drink — and a lot of opportunity to get out of your own personal book nook…and explore someone else’s.
We sat down with Jalila Clarke from Edgewater Library to talk about the event, how it came about, and how it might just bring some readers together.
How did you come up with the idea for the Single Readers Mix & Mingle, and how did BookBar come to be involved?
Adults at times find it difficult to make new friends or meet a potential partner who shares interests similar to theirs. We know there are readers out there who want to converse with other adults about a plethora of subjects but are unable to find an event which is set up for such an activity. Jefferson County Public Library is revamping the experience patrons have by building a bigger and better library in Edgewater. BookBar, which not only provides an environment for literature, inclusion and a fun adult atmosphere, offers a collaboration opportunity for the two organizations.
There will be trivia questions pertaining to sci-fi, romance, books adapted to movies, graphic novels, historical fiction and as many other topics as we can think of. Winners of trivia questions will receive prizes ranging from bags and notebooks to a free one-day pass to the Edgewater Gym located inside the Edgewater Civic Center, and other treats.
Is romance or reading going to be the primary focus? Or are you looking to strike a balance?
We want readers to meet other readers. If a perfect match is struck and two people fall madly in love, wonderful. But it will also be fantastic if people can meet each other, possibly have stimulating conversation, make long-lasting friendships, and realize that locations like Jefferson County Public Library and BookBar have many fun group activities in which people can partake and be a part of a community.
How might the evening deal with literary cliques? Are you planning to divide up into areas delineated by favorite book or something? Harry Potter fans in one corner, Pride & Prejudice folks over here, and people who managed to finish Gravity's Rainbow over at this small table?
There will be areas set up wherein — when a trivia contest is not occurring — persons interested in a particular genre can congregate and wax poetically over their favorite Harry Potter character, analyze the development of a certain graphic novel character from book to movie, [or] dissect the meaning behind any number of classic literary novels in relation to how they have stood the test of time in being of value to readers.
Do you believe there's a connection between romance and reading? That is, do our choices in literary interest help to define us as people in a way that translates to relationships?
A book is like a passport to the world; it can take you so many places. When we fall in love with reading, we fall in love with the world. The words inside a book can create worlds in one’s imagination, spark an interest in a subject which will lead a child to a lifelong enjoyable career as an adult, give a person the tools to encourage themselves and others to be brave, be strong and be a leader. Literature defines us, and through that definition we create relationships and a life, hopefully deep in meaning and purpose that we find in books.
What are your top three most non-traditional romantic books? Not actual romances, necessarily, but the ones that say, "If you like this, then chances are I'll like you?"
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. In this debut novel by Gail Honeyman, the main character doesn’t fit in, and haven’t we all felt like that at some time or another? As the saying goes, there is someone for everyone, who will be happy with you just the way you are.
If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin — a great book they made into a movie. In the face of crushing injustice, how does one hold on to love? If that moment is brief and may not return for a long time — or ever — what do you do with your love?
Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur. Through the four chapters in this book of poetry, experiences transcend from the bitterness of life to the sweetness, and you, the reader, can go from hurt to healing. You realize that although there are painful moments in life, you can still love and be loved by others.
What's an example of a book that would be a bad romantic sign in a potential date? (Not including Twilight, which is the obvious answer.)
Ha! It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for someone who knows what Hogwarts house they’re in and the person you meet knows nothing about Harry Potter, that might be a problem if that’s very important to you. There are people who unwind at the end of their day with nothing but news articles, because they want to be informed about the world. They’re still readers, and there’s still a beauty to that. Then there are people who only want to be swept away inside the pages of a traditional steamy novel where the pose of the couple on the front cover tells you all about the novel. Like art, literature can be subjective; it all depends on the language you are hoping that you and a partner speak to each other, and will you be open-minded enough to learn their language, and vice-versa?
What's your hope in terms of an outcome for an event like this?
We know there are adults experiencing loneliness.... We hope that attendees can find, in the library and at BookBar, spaces where they are seen and heard and can find commonalities with other people. We are more similar than dissimilar, and we all want connection and friendship, so let’s come together and make that happen, one event at a time.
Single Readers Mix & Mingle takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, September 6, at BookBar, 4280 Tennyson Street.