If you want to drink wine and chat with smart enthusiastic people about a buzzy book in an extremely cool lounge, the publisher Random House has your back. Continuing their pattern of innovative New York City event planning after their fun Book Fair for Grownups last fall, Penguin Random House launched a swanky new monthly book club in Midtown’s Kixby Hotel bar in March. The space is trendy, the appetizers were tasty, the crowd was enthusiastic and mostly younger than I, and the conversation was delightful. The book club will have a different book selection each month, of course, but it’s likely the bar + bookstagram feel to the gathering will remain consistent.
The setting was a back room in Lot 15, the bar and lounge of the new boutique hotel, the Kixby. Waiting to get my name badge at the door, I heard the event, capped at 60, had sold out a few days earlier, and the room was pleasantly bustling with people (mostly young, professional women) excited to have people with whom to talk about books. On arrival, someone immediately started a conversation with me about how happy she was to have other readers to talk to. That attitude was absolutely a theme of the evening even as some people there said they had never been to a book club before and others cll look aimed ruefully they belonged to “too many.”
After a good half hour of mingling and hors d’ouvres, Theresa Zoro, Random House’s Executive Vice President, Marketing and PR introduced Morgan, a bookstagram personality, who kicked off the book discussion portion of the evening by handing around the discussion questions from the back of the book, and then circulated to chat with different tables. Fellow WWAC-er Kate Kosturski and I combined our cocktail table with the one next to us and the six of us had a fun and wide-ranging conversation about a bunch of different aspects of Daisy Jones and the Six.
For the club’s kickoff selection, the book was strategic: Daisy Jones and the Six had been a Reese Witherspoon pick when it came out in 2017 confirm, and is now in development for an Amazon Prime adaptation. Thus a lot of the book aficionados present had read it already, and even more had recently become interested in doing so before the screen adaptation premieres.
After about an hour of fairly structured conversation, the event wound down with raffle prizes, encouragement to get the book and ticket for the next month’s club meeting scheduled for March 25th at the same venue, and the now-traditional group pic and exchange of social media handles to keep in touch. While the March Book Club Happy Hour has since been canceled due to Coronavirus concerns, that means we’ll all just look forward to the following ones even more.
Tickets for the event included a trade paperback of the book mailed to you ahead of time, entrance to the event itself, and two drink tickets. At $35 confirm, that seemed pretty reasonable for a New York City evening, especially considering the hearty appetizers and a table of free Advance Reader Copies of an upcoming publication. It also included early access to the club’s March pick, a hardcover set to debut in March but available immediately to attendees included in the purchase of next month’s event ticket.
I got the feeling that, for a lot of the people there, book club events like this one were the main outlet for these passionate readers, many of whom are extremely engaged in online reading communities, to talk about books in real life. I, an English professor who writes for WWAC and is friends with a lot of authors and people in publishing, have arranged my entire life to get people to talk about books with me. And it was still a unique and really enjoyable experience.
I left with a sore throat from loudly talking about books in a bar for an hour and a half, and that seems like the mark of a successful book club event to me.