Books and Bagels Book Club encourages reading for fun

Amanda Svachula, Assistant A&E Editor


After a long day of schoolwork, it’s easier for college students to spend free time mindlessly watching their favorite TV shows rather than reading for fun.

However, Communication sophomore Emma Gordon and Medill freshman Hannah Johnson are hoping to change that attitude. They recently created the Books and Bagels Book Club with the help of Hillel, Northwestern’s Jewish student organization, and will have their first meeting Sunday.

The book club, which will meet once a month in Fiedler Hillel, came about after the two students met on a spring Hillel Alternative Student Break trip in Morocco.

“We were doing our community service, passing buckets and we started to talk about how we never get to read for fun at school,” Johnson said. “Somehow we came up with the idea to start a Hillel book club. We both wanted a way to read for fun in college, but also to possibly connect it with our friends and Hillel.”

Once the two got back to campus, they decided to put their idea into action. With the help of Emily Kagan, Hillel’s engagement associate, they were able to officially establish the organization.

Johnson said the book club will serve as a mental break and help mitigate the stress that college students often feel. It is open to anyone in the NU community.

“Anybody can join, like it is with most Hillel things,” Gordon said. “We’ll try to incorporate some aspects of Judaism in it, but you definitely don’t have to be Jewish.”

The first book that participants will discuss is “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” written by Nathan Englander.

The book is a collection of short stories, which makes it easier for students to make time to read at least a section that they can discuss.

“It definitely has Jewish themes, but it’s not a book just to be read by Jews,” Gordon said. “I wanted to do modern books and ones you’re not necessarily reading in class. I also didn’t want super dense books because it’s supposed to be more casual.”

Sydney Alman, a Medill freshman, plans to attend the first meeting.

“I really like bagels and extracurricular reading that I don’t get a chance to do,” Alman said.  “It’s good to have this outlet in which you can read for fun and meet more people.”

Johnson and Gordon will facilitate discussions at the meetings by asking questions and offering personal experiences. Group feedback will be encouraged and members will have a say in selecting each month’s book.

“I don’t want us to be lecturing or anything, but we’ll definitely come up with some provocative questions to guide discussion,” Gordon said.

The co-founders said they hope a solid group will be established once several meetings are held.

“I think I’d like for it to ultimately be a community, in that the same people come every month … because then we could reference past books we have read,” Gordon said. “I hope it can become a space that people feel comfortable in and look forward to coming to.”

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Twitter: @amandasvachula