Revisiting required literature

Everyone knows books are often discussed and talked about in the confines of a classroom. Whether these books are timeless classics or contemporary titles that have made a splash in the literary scene, many enjoy a healthy discussion on literature. However, it becomes difficult to find outside the halls of school.

Enter Fully Booked, with its headquarters located at Bonifacio Global City, and its recently launched book club, Revisiting Required Literature. We delve into this newly formed book haven for all lovers of literature.

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Banned books and conversations

“It started with a conversation I had with a former professor here in Fully Booked, there right outside,” said Angel Yulo, events manager of Fully Booked. “We were talking about book clubs. It just kind of snowballed from that.” Yulo stated that while they are prominent abroad, the idea of book clubs isn’t very ingrained in our country’s consciousness. “We just kind of figured out ‘why don’t we start a book club?’, and that’s how it started.”

Scheduling the first session on a holiday, August 21 of last year, Yulo and the management of Fully Booked decided to curate a selection and have it under a given theme. The first term, spanning four weeks, discussed banned books. The conversation between Yulo and her professor then went to classic literature. “[Classics] come out with these risque themes like sexuality, the role of women, [and] racism. Everything was discussed way, way, way back. It’s just that now people are more exposed to it.”

If you’re wondering why contemporary lit wasn’t mentioned, fret not. Yulo says, “I’ve written in the RRL (Revisiting Required Literature) description that we are not limiting ourselves to the classics. It’s just that that’s a good base for everyone to start with.” Classic literature provides a good stepping stone towards discovering new and contemporary books. “You work with the familiar to introduce people to something related to it that’s not familiar to them. It’s just common ground that everyone can take up, a platform for take-off.”

Join the club

Yulo states that the book club has been looser than your average English lit class. “It’s almost like a class set up but then there’s more freedom in terms of topics because it’s not really hindered or there’s no curriculum to be followed.”

While everyone is invited to join the book club, the first few attendees were from the yuppie crowd. “We had university students attend. I had a few high schoolers, but I think I’ve seen a majority of young professionals,” states Yulo. It’s no surprise that yuppies miss the thrill of a lively discussion of a piece of literature, a remnant of the good ol’ days when reading wasn’t hindered by deadlines or meetings. “When you leave, as a working person, you go through the phase that ‘I miss school’. Some people are looking for that experience.”

The books discussed during the first term included The Great Gatsby, which was the inaugural book, and Animal Farm. To Kill A Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451, books by Harper Lee and Ray Bradbury, respectively, were discussed during the last days of the first term of Revisiting Required Literature.

The attendees, however, don’t just discuss it by themselves; a moderator is called in to facilitate and liven up the conversations. Yulo says that a moderator should be engaging and should know how to facilitate a group of people. “You have to inject your ideas and let people work with it, especially if you need to warm the motor, you have to inject your own ideas in there.”


Ladies’ night and a gone girl

The second term began last January 23, and the book discussed was Jane Austen’s universally beloved Pride and Prejudice. Appropriate, it may seem, to kick off a term dedicated to female-driven books and female authors. Not to be last fiddle, Helen Fielding’s contemporary hit Bridget Jones’ Diary was discussed the month after, during the month of love.

Though the attendees have been predominantly female, Yulo says that the book club is thriving with discussions and banter all around. Amy Tan’s seminal classic The Joy Luck Club was discussed last March 27, an appropriate and excellent read fit for Women’s Month.

Regarding the demand for readers, Yulo says that the book club operates on whether there’s an audience for a discussion. The last book for Ladies’ Night, Gone Girl, has seen clamor. “I’m reading Gone Girl now and I like it. I just saw the demand. ‘Why not Gone Girl?’ I mean people are demanding for it. So why not throw it in since it is aligned, it’s still a female author, it’s still a female lead.”

With the promotional push of the film adaptation starring Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl’s themes and motifs were ripe for the picking (or discussing). Last April 24, the summer beach read was discussed by an enthusiastic group of readers, including blogger and celebrity Saab Magalona. The topics discussed ranged from the great characters featured in the book to the question of whether the two leads of the novel were really meant for each other or not, happy ending or monstrous nightmare.


Happy readers

One of the attendees of the Gone Girl discussion was Tricia, an information officer doing advertising copies, and a proud graduate of DLSU. “I was part of a book club in college and I missed being part of one so the RRL book club was really enticing for me. I also really like April’s featured book, Gone Girl.” She particularly liked the discussion of themes like the institution of marriage, as seen through the lens of the novel, and the relationship of Amy Elliott and Nick Dunne.

Jie, a risk management representative for a UK-based company, heard of RRL through Saab Magalona’s blog. She has stated that she also joined because she loves books and discussing them. “You are able to share your thoughts about a certain book and it’s fun to be with those people who share the same interest as you do. Also, the choice of book for last month’s meeting was perfect!”

For both ladies, there’s a big difference between a book club and reading on your own, but the beauty abounds between them. While they admit that reading on your own gives a unique experience that no one else has, they mention the benefits of reading with a group. “It’s not just you and the text [anymore]; it’s you, your interpretation of the text, and other people’s views which may not necessarily be in tune with yours,” mentions Tricia.


Next in store

If all the titles still feel foreign, RRL’s third term is dedicated to all things young, whether it be angst or first love. Entitled Growing Pains, the summer term will discuss classics like The Catcher in The Rye, to be held on May 29, and Matilda on August 21; contemporary favorites like Eleanor & Park, on July 31, and It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, on June 26, will also be discussed for all the youths looking to channel their inner Holdens or Eleanors.

For Yulo, the book club is a venue for readers to get together and share their love for reading. “We know, as Fully Booked, there are really different kinds of readers. There are readers who want to be alone and are just satisfied with that. There are also readers who, after reading, want to discuss it and they don’t have a lot of friends who read the same book. So why not provide them the opportunity to discuss it among people who may not be their friends but can be their friends because they have the same book?”

While attendance grows and the books discussed get more diverse and more interesting, Yulo still hopes that longevity is in RRL’s cards. “I hope it lasts long. I hope more and more people read so more and more people can discuss.”

“Like the bookstore, I always feel like it’s a place where the culture of a certain community can thrive. The best way we can really support is to give people venues for engagement and discussion,” Yulo eagerly shares. After all, though class participation and grades are needed inside school, one’s love for books and lively discussions can thrive out of the halls of a classroom, and into circles of friends.

Daniel Ian Comandante

By Daniel Ian Comandante

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