Book Club Spotlight: Voyage Out

Voyage Out is one of the store’s most established book clubs. It’s been around for almost ten years! We asked Brian to share a bit about the group’s history and habits. Check out what he had to say below and don’t miss the next meeting on February 25 at 5 p.m. on the third floor of BookPeople. 




We are currently in a three-month cycle looking at the work of Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison. We started our Morrison trilogy in January with Beloved. It was a wonderful time. We will be reading Jazz on February 25 and Paradise on March 25You should come see us! We’d love to read with you. Want to know a little bit more about what we do? Here’s a little introduction to who we are, what we do, and what we believe has worked for us in the past.




In 2009 a gentleman named Daniel and I were booksellers at BookPeople. We, of course, love books, and we found that talking to each other about them was a lot of fun. We decided to formalize this relationship with the creation of The Voyage Out Book Group.


The idea of Voyage Out is to read novels from specific locales in three-month cycles. Examples would be a three-month cycle where we read Kenzaburo Oe, Yasunari Kawabata, and Haruki Murakami. This Japanese region would not be a way to understand Japanese culture completely, or even Japanese literature. The goal is more in line with what we gain when we travel to unfamiliar places. We gain some knowledge, respect, understanding, empathy, and hopefully have a great time, too.


Years have passed, and the group has changed a little. Daniel has left the group, although he is always welcome. I have co led the group with a fine fellow named Clint and a force of nature named Danithan. Now the group is co led by Sarah, who has been my partner in this practice for almost three years.


I no longer work at BookPeople, but I still remain close to the store in my current job as a Penguin Sales Rep. One thing that has not changed is our mission. We still read regional fiction in three-month cycles. We still meet the last Sunday of every month at BookPeople (5 p.m., third floor). We are still open to anyone who wants to come by.  We are still learning about new places, new authors, new books, and new ways of reading.


How we pick books:


Our process for deciding what we read happens over two months. It happens wholly by those who show up. No one has a larger vote or a bigger voice. If you’ve been coming for seven years, you have the same vote as someone who randomly came into the meeting for the first time this month. We choose a region (France, The Balkans, The American South, etc.) in the first month of the process. This is done at the end of a meeting, with a general conversation that leads to a narrowing of ideas and then a vote. Once we choose a region, we choose the first two books in that region. Also done by narrowing down of ideas and a vote. We then let members go home and research on their own books that fit the region’s parameters. We choose the third book based on this research at the next meeting.


Make sense? Maybe. The most important thing to remember is that we read books in three month, regionally focused cycles. We choose books as a group, so those who come and come with ideas are those that get their choices read more.


What do we read?:


Over the years we have built a list of possible regions. We don’t need to choose from this list, and you can add to this list. For a list of books and regions we have read, click here. 


A few fairly strict rules about what we read:


  • We read novels. We tried short stories, but it didn’t go well.
  • We read books that are available in paperback. We never want to limit participation based on funds.
  • We need to be sure that books are available (in print and practical) to BookPeople.
  • We try to stay with an author from the region writing a book based in the region. We fail here sometimes.
  • We (I) try to be sure we are reading diversely. We are also failing in this area, too. We are not reading enough women.


Best practices:


Here are a few of the things we’ve come to loosely call ‘rules’ throughout the past 7 years:


  • We don’t really talk about whether we ‘like’ the book or not – or at least we let those comments come at the end. Reading and discussing books works better without the liked/didn’t like duality.
  • Book groups meet for different reasons. Some are built to be a shared experience. Or, I read this, you read this, that’s a cool thing, let’s celebrate that. Some are built to encourage you to read at least one book a month and become part of a reading community. Some are ways to meet folks and drink wine. The Voyage Out Book Group is built with a philosophy that we can become better readers by discussing books with other readers. We want to smash 8-20 heads together and come out of the other side of two hours with a better understanding of the book and a better understanding of how to read.
  • You should do four things at every meeting: 1. Teach something to someone 2. Learn something from someone 3. Think hard 4. Laugh.
  • Rereading your favorite books with a group is a blast.
  • Reading a book by an author you’ve never heard of from a region you don’t know well is a blast.
  • We exist because BookPeople allows us to. They have been generous with their time and space. But, you don’t have to buy the book from BP to come to the group. That being said, we should always be aware that BP is the founder of the feast.
  • Over the past seven years we have read books with high school kids, Comp Lit PHD’s, published novelists, academic critics, computer programmers, stay at home dads, new readers, old readers, nerds, jocks, geeks, and hipsters. This motley crew has led me to one truth: no one’s reading is more valid than anyone else’s. In fact, the most academic reading can be made better by interacting with someone who hasn’t read a book in years and is trying something new. 

    — Brian C. 



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