On Tuesday the 16th of October, after some encouragement from a couple of avid bookworms, the page "PNG BOOKCLUB" was created on Facebook. The journey since then has been...well...amazing!
Today the BookClub turned one month old. But it boasts a membership of almost 3100 members. Incidentally a letter to the National newspaper today, by James Lunge, has attracted a good number of member-requests—in fact we've probably had more requests today than any other day.
The best thing about the BookClub is that people are not just joining the group. They're participating actively by providing book reviews or snippets, recommendations and even offering to loan or donate their precious titles to others to read. This is very heartening. Lunge gave a big wrap in his letter saying the BookClub has "silently revolutionised" the culture of reading in PNG.
Within the short space of time friendships have been created. And I don't mean the simple Facebook type of "friend". I mean real friendships. People have been emailing each other, setting up meetings and/or simply hooking up, exchanging books and stuff. A website has been setup. A Blog too. And a Forum page where people discuss books and the value of reading. Members of the BookClub have been encouraged to take pictures of bookworms "caught red-handed" and pass to our website administrator Bea Amaya, for publication on the website. And those willing to write 500-word book-reviews can do so and send to me, for the blog.
The common passion is this: READING and CREATING A READING CULTURE IN PNG. People have embraced this simple ideal like the life of the nation depended on it. In fact it probably does! Bookworms realise that much of the narrow-mindedness in Papua New Guinea is due to the simple fact that we do not have a reading culture. So we end up being spoon-fed with "education" and "wisdom". Laments on the lack of libraries in our country is regularly voiced in this page. And appreciation for 2nd hand shops is articulated regularly. Calls for an effort to distribute books and beef up our libraries have been regularly received, noted and considered for action by leaders of the BookClub.
I appreciate a father who said he had rekindled his reading passion after a decade, signed up in a library along with his son. That is such a heartwarming story. A mother has got her family doing more reading than the usual sport stuff. These are just two of some little revolutionary things happening around and outside our country. A result of the synergy of the Bookworms here.
The page has seen a meeting happen intent on formalising the group and refining the website. A book-swap organised by our very own Jaive Smare made use of beautiful Ela Beach. And another is planned for early December. It has seen a Book Launch featuring our very own David Gonol. The Voice Inc. has hopefully seen an increase in its drive to collect books to stock a rural Library in Garaina. We hope that is going well after the BookClub advertised the on-going collection event to its then-2800 members. Our own Niicaux also used the page to get some assistance for two boxes of books for youngsters in rural Northern Province.
Major writers gracing the BookClub with their presence include Dr. Steven Winduo and Russel Saoba. Upcoming writers such as Nou Vada, Martyn Namorong are getting valuable feedback for their work—and they write extremely well, and controversially too I should add!
Leading authors of course being mentioned regularly are Grisham (no surprises there), Patterson, Ludlum and Sheldon. Popular title being passed around is "Confessions of an Economic Hitman". In fact a major discussion is planned surrounding this book. Discussions are to be held during the first Meet&Greet. Of course the Bible get's mentioned regularly. All acknowledge it is the ALL-TIME greatest best-seller with its life-altering words. Of course how can a book inspired the God not be the Best! Bookworms are encouraged to read the Bible. And talk about it on the BookClub!
Bookworms' favoured genres are widespread. Fiction fans like legal thrillers, science fiction and spy novels. Some have some really weird tastes. But of course! Some are into the classics too. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is still super alongside Mark Twain's works I guess. Non-fiction readers love philosophy, leadership works, biographies and autobiographies, and controversial stuff too (hence the prominence of "Economic Hitman"). And a few books by our PNG leaders have received their share of recommendations on the BookClub. But I would recommend more of this. One bookworm commented that much of the writings about PNG are written by foreigners. Yes we need to write about ourselves....and read about ourselves too!
Home BookClubs are encouraged. Get your family members to read books and share reviews once-a-week. You won't regret it. Book reviews are both fun and very educational. Not to mention inspirational, provocative, entertaining, etc etc. And mindsets can change from such exercises.
All in all I guess I'd have to agree with James Lunge. In a small way the BookClub has "silently revolutionised" reading in PNG. Keep keeping our BookClub page alive. Tell us what you're reading. What you've learnt. Tell us how you're getting your children, siblings, and even mum and dad to read. I am looking forward to meeting you fellow bookworms when the time comes.
In the meantime...