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Q & A with Lorraine Sithole, Co-founder of BookWormers GP

BookWormers GPBookWormers GP

BookWormers GP is a rising book club based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Follow them on Twitter. Want to start your own book club? Click here to find out how.

Q: How did BookWormers GP come about? What need were you seeking to fulfill?

The book club was formed in April 2011 by myself and two friends. We formed it primarily because we were always discussing and exchanging books when we met socially. These were women I’ve known for years and we founded this movement at the Zoo Lake, drafted a constitution to guide the book club and invited other women whom we knew loved reading. A few of the women lacked the commitment required by reading and through the book club were able to surmount those personal challenges.

More than promoting life-long reading, the book club has an outreach arm. This was, for me, an integral part of the book club: I’ve studied through scholarships and it was important that, as women, we go back to our communities and help where we can. The outreach programmes we’ve participated in promote causes close to our hearts. We look for projects on the fringes – causes that fall outside the ambit of social services. Because we believe in sustainability, the help that we provide enable the programmes to concentrate on big-ticket issues. We take care of the little stuff while the management concentrates on putting processes in place to guarantee future success

Q: How long has the book club been active?

The book club has been active for 5 and a half years. We’ll be celebrating our 6th anniversary in April and are already planning a super duper bookish event.

Q: Please give us an overview of members and what they do.

The majority of the book club ladies are wives and mothers – and all are career women. We have an eclectic mix, from a Learning Manager for an insurance company, a Credit Manager in a commercial bank, a Finance Executive for a retail giant, a Call Centre Manager for an FMCG enterprise, a Laboratory Information Management Systems Coordinator at SABS, to trainee Business Analysts, entrepreneurs, and Employee Engagement Heads for multinationals.

Q: What are the general rules – how do you choose books? Who decides? How often do you meet? What happens when you can’t come to a meetup?

The general rules are:

1. You have to get the chosen monthly read AND read it prior to the review meet. Original hard copies ONLY. NO PDF’s.
2. You have to attend at least 80% of the review meets. We meet once a month, the second Sunday, but we can do Saturdays if a quorum is reached.
3. You have to have the means to contribute monthly to the outreach projects.
4. Each member has to host a book review meet at least once a cycle.
5. Each member gets an opportunity to nominate and coordinate events for their chosen community-based project for a full year. We encourage ownership, commitment and accountability.

We each nominate a title, discuss it and then choose 3 books in advance. This is not cast in stone. Should a title catch our eye during the year, there’s room to chop and change. The book club allows flexibility. We’ve had quite a few authors joining our sessions, which is great fun.

Q: Would you say being a book club member has turned you into some sort of a #bookevangelist?

I’ve always been adventurous and books have always opened cultural, culinary and artistic avenues for me, but the book club has caused a major explosion. I have discovered the world of publishing. I have made friends in circles I’d ever thought were available to me. I am doing so much more through reading and have exceeded my own expectations. There are millions of books from the continent I still have to read. I get excited by book covers, blurbs and titles. I look up movie titles to check if they were not book adaptations.

My reading list is not only limited to within the continent. We read The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling last year, primarily to check if the author had more to give after the Harry Potter marathon. When the series came out on BBC, I watched with a beady eye and enjoyed it so much because I was dissecting the characters, the scenes and the dialogue. I also enjoyed the series Cape Town, based on Deon Meyer’s novel Dead Before Dying. I’ve just bought an eBook copy of Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile because I loved the series so much.

As a group, we will be bringing books to children in Diepsloot, Alexander, Soweto, Katlehong, Mamelodi etc. Yes, I am a #bookevangelist.

Q: What was the book that was least liked or most controversial in the past year?

Most controversial was Run, Racist, Run! by Eusebius McKaiser and least liked were Voices of Jesus and the Ancestors by Ole Makgeledisa and Bitch, Please! I’m Khanyi Mbau by Lesley Mofokeng.

Q: Quick tips for readers who want to start a book club?

1. Visualize the end product then work backwards. (The people, smells, sounds, flavours of the club, etc.)
2. Have a constitution to drive the club and processes.
3. Be committed and motivated. The members take their cue from you as coordinator.
4. Be patient.
5. Have fun and make the book club fun.
6. Be more than about reading.

– Interview by Kgauhelo Dube

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One Response to Q & A with Lorraine Sithole, Co-founder of BookWormers GP

  1. Phantse January 24th, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

    Awesome work Lorraine.

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