I am a member of quite a few book clubs and normally I would have about three book club meetings every month. Of course, since the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of meetings have been cancelled – and even during times when they were possible, like during the summer when we had lower infection rates, I cancelled a few myself because they meant I would have to use public transportation. I still had a few meetings with friends, more like buddy reads than a real book club, and we would meet one another to talk about the books, but with just two persons is really not the same as with a group.

This month, I had my first “group” book club meeting again. My best friend had organised a meeting on War and Peace, and he had brought together a group of literature students to read this work over the summer. Planning the meeting was hard: as we were reaching the deadline when we wanted to finish the book, the numbers of infections in the Netherlands kept rising and measures were becoming more strict. The plan was to meet at his house, to all keep enough distance and to keep the windows open for enough ventilation, but in the end everyone cancelled for the physical appointment. We had to go digital.

However, everyone cancelling meant that it was a lot more safer for me to visit my friend, and I knew he was very tired of all the digital events and really needed some face-to-face interaction, so I went to his place and we positioned the camera in a way that we would both be visible – with six feet of space between us. I was not very enthusiastic about a digital meeting as well but I was very much surprised at how much easier it already was just because I was in the same room with one of the other participants. It felt so much more like a physical event. I also think it helped that because we had to place the laptop so far away as to get both of us (with social distancing) on camera, I didn’t feel like I was glued to the camera.

As many of my book clubs are now adapting to the new situation, I’m going to take the lessons I learned from this experiences along. Next time I have a meeting like this, I’m not gonna be behind my desk with my screen 30 centimeters from my face. I’m gonna sit on my couch with my laptop as far away from me as the other person would be. And if it’s possible and safe, I will see if one fellow book club member will join me in the room.

To everyone reading this: please stay safe. If you’re in a region with high infection rates that prohibit you from receiving guests or visiting people, follow the rules. If you are allowed a visits, please keep social distancing in mind.

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