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BookBrowse interviews The Recycle Book Club about all aspects of their book club.

Book Club Interviews

The Recycle Book Club

Lloyd Russell has been the leader of the Recycle Book Club in Campbell, California since 2014. They not only read and discuss books, but also always have the authors of those books come to their meetings. BookBrowse first talked with Lloyd in 2017, and then followed up in 2021 to find out what the group has been up to and how they responded to the pandemic.


2017

Hi Lloyd! Please tell us a bit about your book group.

We are the Recycle Book Club – or RBC. We meet at Recycle Bookstore in Campbell, CA. We have about 125 people on our email list.

Wow, that's a huge number!

The Recycle Book ClubWell, we average about 12-18 members per meeting. We usually meet once a month – with a couple of exceptions – and it’s normally on the 3rd of 4th Wednesday night, also with some exceptions.

What age range are your members?

They tend to skew toward the baby boomer generation, with a few millenials and tweeners thrown in for some balance.

What is the most unique thing about the Recycle Book Club?

We definitely do something that most other groups don’t do. We have the author of the book we have read come to the meeting to answer our questions and sign books.

Wow again! That is definitely special! You always do this?

Yes, this is a given. We don’t do it by Skype or phone – we tried it once and didn’t like it.

But you're able to find enough authors who can come?
The number of excellent authors in the Bay Area is staggering. Many of them are nationally prominent, Queen Sugarsuch as Meg Waite Clayton, Cara Black, Keith Raffel, Marina Adair – she’s already had two of her books turned into movies on The Lifetime Channel, Ellen Sussman, Natalie Baszile – her book, Queen Sugar, is a series on the Oprah Winfrey Network, currently in the middle of Season 2), and Vanessa Diffenbaugh, to name just a few.

This is so cool.

Something else that differentiates us from most other book clubs is that we read a wide variety of genres – mystery, historical fiction, memoir, romance, young adult, contemporary fiction, women’s fiction (even though I’m not a fan of this nomenclature), young adult fantasy, dark fiction, paranormal, and legal murder mystery.

It sounds like there's no genre that's off limit for your group.

That is right. We even read romantic comedy!

How did the Recycle Book Club get started?

We started the book club in January of 2014 at Village House of Books in Los Gatos. (They have, unfortunately, recently gone out of business). We then moved it to Recycle Bookstore in September of 2014, and we’ve been there ever since. The amount of support we get from the store manager, Stacy, and her staff has been outstanding.

Can you tell us a little about your meetings?

We meet from 6:30-7:00. We each give a synopsis and a rating for the book on a scale of 1-4.

With the author there?

No, no! Then the author comes at 7:00, and we fire questions at her/him. There is no order or protocol, and everybody just gets to ask what they want. When we have exhausted all of our questions, the author sticks around to sign books for those who actually read print –

Ha! Good point.

There are still a few of us left! We are normally done by 8:00-8:15. Oh, and we don’t do food or beverages since we are inside of a bookstore. Plus, we’re not social. We don’t talk about personal stuff. We are just author/book-driven.

That's interesting. Can you tell us how you choose your books? We already know you choose from the widest possible array of genres!

How the books/authors are picked is really by a committee of one.

You?

Yes. This is a dictatorship, not a democracy! Having been a book blogger for over six and a half years, and having been to countless author events, I have come across many local authors. And I’m being introduced to new ones all the time. It’s just a matter of finding out which authors are interested in coming to the RBC, and determining if I think it’s a book that the members will like. Not every book has to be a 4/4, but I try to at least make sure it’s something that people can finish.

How do you do?

I'm successful most of the time. But I have definitely had a few duds along the way. Most importantly, our members are absolutely committed to reading different genres. Without exception, everybody likes reading books that they would otherwise never pick up or try.

Have you held any special events, or taken visits, or done different activities?

The Language of FlowersWe normally feel that having the author come to the meeting is special enough. We tried a book exchange earlier this year that was sparsely populated. It seems to have gathered momentum after the event itself. We might try it again, but I'm not sure. When we had Vanessa Diffenbaugh (The Language of Flowers), we had to move our meeting down the street to a coffee roasting cafe because of the number of people who attended.

How many came?

We had 45 people at the event! And in October 2017, we have an author coming from Marin County on a late Sunday afternoon. So we’re going to have dinner after and open it up to the entire membership.

Okay Lloyd. One more question for you. Do you have advice for other book club groups?

The only advice I have is this: If you are reading a book by an author in your area, you might want to check and see if that author wants to come to your book club meeting. Most authors are very happy to mix with their reading public, if their schedule permits.

Oh yes, I know this is true from first hand experience. Authors feel so grateful to the people who read their books. And they love to connect with them.

I can tell you it’s enormous fun to be able to get the backstory to a novel – How were you published? How long did it take to write your book? Where did you get your idea?, etc – directly from the author.

I agree. It's wonderful to learn about the behind-the-scenes details of an author's journey writing a book. And thank you Lloyd for sharing the behind-the-scenes of your book club!

Thank you!


2021

Hi Lloyd, so what have the Recycle Book Club been up to these past four years?

We've been growing in numbers over the years, we were at 125 in 2017 and we're now at 165, but the most dramatic shift has been transitioning from having all the authors coming to our book club in person to now having the authors Zooming in. And what the pandemic is doing is allowing us to have a whole host of very high profile authors including Kristin Harmel, Susan Meissner, Robert Dugoni, Barry Eisler, John Hart, Susan Wiggs, and Renee Rosen. Some of these are among my favorite authors, but they are all good.  

That's interesting as back in 2016, you said the group had tried Skype once but didn't like it, but of course Zoom is a different experience.

It is, in fact, a number of our new members now Zoom in from different parts of the country. This is probably a main reason why we won't ever go back to in-house meetings exclusively. We want to make sure that all of our members can continue to enjoy these authors and their back-stories. We are booked through the end of 2021 and already have three authors scheduled in the first four months of 2022. We continue to enjoy how gracious authors are toward book clubs.

It is interesting you say this, as we heard from many book clubbers when researching our "Book Clubs in Lockdown" report that one of the positives of meeting on Zoom was that it had opened up the possibilities of inviting authors much more easily than before; I've also heard from a number of authors who really like meeting with groups by Zoom as it is both more personal and easier than Skype or phone.

How many generally attend your Zoom meetings?

It varies from 10 or 11 to 30.  The average is probably 15-20.

Did you have teething problems getting people to use Zoom? And do your meetings follow broadly the same format as before?

We really haven't had any connection/getting on issues; nobody has said they have left the club because of tech issues. Our meetings on Zoom follow the same format as our in-person meetings did. We meet, just club members, 30 minutes before the author comes on, giving everybody time to rate the book and give their opinion. If there is any remaining time, I give updates and miscellaneous info.

Do you record the sessions for those who aren't on the live call? If so, how do people access them after the event?

We record each session and then send the link out to the entire RBC membership along with a couple of screen shots. All emails are sent bcc.

Are you still affiliated with the Recycle Bookstore?

I've actually been working there a few hours a week since last November. The store manager still brings in copies of each book because many of our members read print books, and some buy from Recycle so as to support the store.

You say you won’t ever go back to in-house exclusively. Now that you have a virtual element among your membership, how will you manage this?

I don't know when we will have in-store meetings again. But if we do, we will make sure that out-of-town members will have access. We'll cross that bridge when we get there; perhaps we'll set up a Zoom link so they can join the in-person discussion, if not, then I'll share the recording with all, as I do now.

Do you feel Zoom is equal, better or worse than meeting in person – or just different?

It definitely has pluses and minuses. Nothing matches getting to see the author in person because not only is it more personal, but people can also get their print books signed. On the other hand, being virtual not only gives members the opportunity to be involved, but it also allows us to bring in some very good authors from around the country. On balance, I would say that more people prefer Zoom than in-person.

Thank you Lloyd, it's been a pleasure to catch up with you and find out how the RBC has evolved.



The Recycle Book Club is open to new members. Interested readers can follow Lloyd's blog at booksage.blogspot.com and contact him at: lloydrrussell@gmail.com.

Photo shows a 2017 meeting of the Recycle Book Club: Judy, Renee, Tina, Mike, Susan, Killian McRae (author), Rich, Ann Bridges (author), Nancy, Val, Laurie, Joni, and Ann

2017 interview by Tamara Ellis Smith; 2021 update by BookBrowse publisher, Davina Morgan-Witts

© BookBrowse.com October 2021.

If you feel that your book group has something unique to offer, and you would like to tell others about it, please contact us with brief details, and maybe we can feature you in the future.

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