If you ask when is a good time to read, Saipan Book Club members will tell you that anytime is a good time.
According to Lindsay Nash, who heads the Saipan Book Club, it’s a very casual club where women from all backgrounds and ages come together once a month to talk about the book that they had just read.
“We take turns choosing a new book each month, and whoever chooses the book is the host of the next meeting. The host leads the discussion and comes prepared with questions and topics to discuss and we usually have drinks and snacks—and once even an entire Peruvian dinner when we were reading a novel by a South American writer and it is always a good time,” she said.
The club is a good reminder that life may have turned fast and busy that we’ve simply forgotten about old hobbies like reading and the pandemic has essentially revived some of these long-forgotten habits.
Nash said that in a time when we can barely leave the island, isn’t it nice to explore other places simply by opening a book? “Books are a uniquely portable magic,” says Stephen King. And isn’t that true? Books transport us to different worlds. …The pandemic has been hard for everyone. I have found that it can be very tempting to shut down my brain and simply scroll through social media and the news. But this can be so toxic for our mental health. Reading a book, however, gives our brains a break from our own stress and transports us to a different world and a different story.”
Nash says that her love for reading and writing has continued into adulthood. She has loved to read since she was a girl and “I remember being on the playground in Kindergarten and telling a friend that I could now read a book as difficult as Dr. Seuss! And, in second grade, I started dreaming about writing books. I wrote short stories and illustrated them for my teacher, Ms. Fitzgerald, who always encouraged my love of reading and writing,” she added.
The Saipan Book Club currently has 51 members in its Facebook group but the meetings are usually much smaller—around 10 people. “Because there are so many people interested, we have the general rule that you should read the book if you’re going to attend and that helps keep the numbers manageable. …The club met virtually several times during the pandemic, via Zoom, but as we’ve moved into a safer community status, we’ve recently started meeting in person again,” she added.
One SBC member, Beylul Solomon, has been a member since a year and a half ago and loves the dynamics when members talk about a book. “It allows you to see the different perspectives and interpretations of the same work. It also gives people the opportunity to share personal stories that relate to the book and brings people closer. …I wouldn’t say that reading makes us forget about the stresses and challenges that the pandemic brings but I certainly feel like it gives you a momentary break to get together with your girlfriends,” she said.
“It’s very important to stay active mentally and physically because it has many protective factors for positive health outcomes when people are socially isolated and or experiencing stress. Reading a book allows you to travel in your mind to places you’ve never been and can be a great way of temporarily alleviating some of those stresses associated with a pandemic,” she added.
Another member, Mili Chaves De Saiki, said that being in a book club is a great way to process the content of any book. “It is amazing how different and, the same time, alike we feel about a book.”
Saiki likes the book club for two main reasons: One, you must read a book with a final date to finish it, so no procrastination is allowed. And two, you have a great reason or excuse to get together with friends that you do not see often. “Touching base with current events, etc. and, of course, we all need distraction, especially now with all pandemic and political situation,” she said.
According to Nash, reading books makes her humble. “The more I read, the more I know that I don’t know anything at all. Reading makes us smarter, more thoughtful, more empathetic and more aware of the world around us. …I’m currently reading The Overstory by Richard Powers and it’s an incredible environmental saga that looks at the human story through tree years, meaning every minor thing that happens to the characters is just that—so minute in terms of the whole picture,” she said. “It really puts in perspective our place in the world as humans. We are so small in the scheme of things. But, at the same time, it’s up to us to preserve our environment for the future. It’s a powerful reminder of just how small we are, and how, this too [pandemic] shall pass,” she added.