By Laura Weisskopf Bleill
I caught the reading bug during the pandemic. During those months of being at home, I found solace — and distraction — in stories. It sounds trite, but I rediscovered the love I had for reading when I was a kid. And it hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
Thanks to social media, reading is cool again. There’s BookTok and Bookstagram, full of accounts that promote and advocate for every kind of book and genre possible. You can find online book clubs galore.
For many, discussing books is a much more social activity — and meant to be in person. There’s something about connecting with fellow readers.
Luckily for us, there’s plenty of places in our wordy college town community to find them. This can be a great way to meet new people, something not always easy or simple to do as grownups.
In the Champaign-Urbana metro region, book clubs can be found at the usual suspects — libraries and book stores. But they also happen in non-profit organizations, faith-based institutions, and more.
At the end of this article, we offer tips on how to start your own book club, and Champaign-Urbana area resources available to support book clubs.
(This list is subject to change at any time; please contact each organization or business with questions directly.)
Champaign Public Library
CPL hosts two book clubs currently, Cover to Cover and Table Talk. New members are always welcome at both book clubs. The library generally has multiple copies of book club selections.
Cover to Cover Book Club: Meets at the main library on the second Thursday of the month at 1:30 p.m. at the Main Library. Titles range from fiction to memoir to non-fiction.
Table Talk Book Club: Join these casual get-togethers to talk about books by contemporary African American authors. The Table Talk Book Club meets on the second Tuesday each month at 6:30 p.m. (September through May) at the Douglass Branch Library.
Mahomet Public Library
Tuesday Night Book Club meets on the second Tuesday of each month to discuss that month’s great read. Titles picked for early 2024 include Maame by Jessica George, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, and Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.
Allerton Public Library (Monticello)
Learn Together, Grow Together Book Group meets every third Thursday at 6 p.m. (except for March when the group will meet the fourth Thursday). Titles for early 2024 picked include The Teachers by Alexandra Robbins, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg.
The Literary, downtown Champaign
This funky bookstore/cafe/bar in downtown Champaign takes hanging out with fellow readers to a whole new level. Its book fun includes multiple book club discussions, author visits, and book release parties. Book club discussions are generally free and do not require registration. Some author or book celebrations may be ticketed events. Stay up to date with Literary events via social media or on The Literary website.
Hartfield Book Company, Monticello
This little gem of a book store on the square in Monticello runs a monthly book club between February and November. According to its website, “Selections are chosen by book club members and usually span a range of fiction and nonfiction, new and old, from many different genres. Participants are not required to purchase book club selections through the store; however, all members of the book club have the opportunity to purchase the current month’s selection from Hartfield at a 20 percent discount.” For more information, visit Hartfield’s website.
Niche Book Clubs
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign’s Feminist Book Group (est. 1987) is an opportunity for those identifying as women of all ages and backgrounds to read and discuss works by female authors whose writings are particularly relevant to women’s lives. Meets the third Tuesday of each month. Books chosen can be found online here.
The Women’s Resources Center Book Club at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers members of the community an opportunity to engage in meaningful and thoughtful discussions that explore various cultural, political, social, and personal issues related to how gender and sexuality impacts different aspects of our lives. Sometimes free books are available, with priority given to students and campus affiliated members, but the club is open to all. Find more information online here.
The Urbana Silent Book Club is hosted at Analog Wine Library and next meets at 7 p.m. on Feb. 29.
Start your own bookclub:
A friend of mine posted on social media that she really wanted to join a book club, but didn’t know where or how. So she decided to start her own, after multiple people said they wanted to join the fun. Members take turns suggesting books, and the group generally meets every 4-6 weeks, usually at a public location where food/beverage is served. The person who suggests the book, leads the discussion.
BOOK KITS: Don’t know where to start or what to pick? Head to the Champaign Public Library, which has multiple copies of 25 recommended books. See the book kit selection at Champaign Public Library online here.
Did we miss your open-to-the-public book club? Send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.