A Year in the Life: A Look Back at 2020 in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club

A Year in the Life: A Look Back at 2020 in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club

Readers, today I’m delighted to welcome my friend and team member into this space, because she has a unique perspective on our bookish community. Nearly five years ago, Ginger Horton applied for a job she didn’t know existed (because I hadn’t said a single word publicly), and I knew at once she was the perfect person for the role of Community Manager for our then-brand-new Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. She’s held the role ever since, and Book Club (and let’s be honest, my life) is better for it. Welcome to the blog, Ginger!

Throughout this post we’re also sharing photos from our members of their Book Club moments. Enjoy!

When I look back at my reading life, there are a few key moments that stand out—when I first read Jane Eyre in high school and learned I was a Reader (capital “R”), the first (and only) time I closed the back cover of a book then flipped right back to the beginning to reread it right away (for the curious: Atonement by Ian McEwan), and when I joined the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club.

These days, I work as our Book Club Community Manager, which basically means I get to hang out in our member community every day and talk books with other readers. Both for our members (hi!) and for those who’d welcome a peek at what we do, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at all the bookish goodness we’ve enjoyed together this year in Book Club.

What We Do

We like to say what we do is the three “C’s”—classes, community, and conversation (don’t book people love a good alliteration?). So I’ve selected one or two from each to give you a taste, but if you’d like to geek out with me first to some numbers, we’ve had

• 9 authors join us for live book discussions
• 5 sessions of Book School
• 3 each of seasonal book previews, film watch parties, and member meetup small groups
• 2 Ask Anne Anything sessions
• and 1 life-giving virtual retreat weekend (a moment of which is pictured above)

I wish I could tell you all the fun things we did this year, but it would be pages and pages, so here’s a little taste …

Classes

Since audiobook popularity is booming, Book Club hosted the Guide to an Awesome Audiobook Experience class in June where we explored why, where, and how to listen, highlighted tons of favorite books and narrators, and shared tips for finding the right audiobooks for you.

In what’s become a Book Club tradition, we celebrated Austen in August, reading The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner, who joined us to chat. (Delight doesn’t even begin to describe her stories about visiting Chawton House!). Then we got nerdy with our All About Emma class, where we explored literary context and fun facts to enhance your Austen reading experience.

We went Back to Book School this fall, starting a five-part series of accessibly nerdy classes on the literary life. We learned how to read with a literary lens, discussing genre, structure, characterization, theme, retention, plot, and so much more. It was all kinds of nerdy fun, and provoked so many great conversations.

Community

In March, we finally convinced our own Anne Bogel to let us read one of her books together. This was the first time we’d done this as a club, and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Don’t Overthink It was the perfect book to read for 2020, when we all had to contend with overthinking—perhaps more than ever.

We put the strategies from Don’t Overthink It to good use, and discussed tips and tricks that were working well for us when we broke into small groups in our first-ever Member Meetup.

Getting to talk with fellow readers in real time, or any time in our member community, is one of the best parts of Book Club. Many members say they don’t have anyone in their life who loves reading as much as they do—and it’s great fun to find a community of kindred spirits. Member meetups were a hit! And we continued them on different topics throughout the year.

March was a busy month, as we also conducted one of my favorite sessions ever—Genius Moves for the Reading Life, where our team members and readers shared the often-unexpected strategies that make their reading lives sing: like what time of day they read, how they track their books, which bookmarks and post-its they love, and even what size tv to buy to read more. And one particularly controversial move that inspired much debate—whether to read the last page first or not.

Conversation

May brought us a member favorite read for the year, Lovely War by Julie Berry. Having the author with us was a delight as she talked about the music in the novel, how the editors changed her ending (and then changed it back!), mythology, and her love for The Great Courses. Plus, we almost never make it through an author talk without recommendations from them for more great books they love, and Julie Berry did not disappoint.

We’re all still basically gushing over our new friend “Liz,” also known as Elizabeth Acevedo, after she talked to us about our September read, The Poet X (we loved her writing so much, we’re reading more of her work next year).

It was also so fun to talk to authors Marjan Kamali, Alix Harrow, William Kent Krueger (he gave us a reading of his very favorite passage he’s ever written!), Chanel Cleeton, and Tayari Jones.

With all this bookish goodness, it’s hard to imagine how we’ll pack more in before the year is out, but there’s more to come. We’re leaning hard into comfort reading this winter, starting with Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah along with our first-ever graphic memoir, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.

Readers, this isn’t even all of what we did in 2020. I didn’t have the space to touch on all the flight picks we read together, but I hope these highlights was full of good memories for those of us in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club, and give you a good idea of what we’ve been up to.

It’s so good to be among people who are reading! We’ve loved reading with all our members this year and cannot wait to read with you next year. Take a look at our calendar of events to see what’s coming up and then sign up to join us for classes, community, and conversation!

P.S. Book Club makes a great last minute gift for your favorite bookworm (or for yourself). See all gift membership options here.

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40 comments | Comment

40 comments

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    • Barbara Heller says:

      Wow – great post. You offer more programs than I thought you did. Are all the past programs available to book club members?
      I didn’t rejoin before for a few reasons – in a few book groups, the upcoming picks didn’t seem that interesting, and I think I am much older than most members ( don’t get me wrong- I like interacting with younger women – but our reading preferences may be quite different). But Ginger inspired me and I plan to sign up. Thanks

      • Anne says:

        Barbara, membership does include access to our past events and classes (and as you can gather, there are A LOT of them at this point!).

        And as others pointed out, something I particularly like about our book is it is truly intergenerational.

      • Ginger says:

        Oh so delighted to hear that, Barbara. We’d love to have you!!

        And yes, you can watch any past recordings of these authors and classes and events… you’re going to have so much bookish goodness to catch up on!

      • Deborah G Ball says:

        I let my membership go for the same reason, and my internet has been out a lot. I am in Michelle Wilson’s age group and this is a fungroup of ladies! I always learn something when I join in! No other book blog is as good as Anne’s and I am rejoining!!! I find I spend my money in my book budget much more wisely by listening to these ladies!!!

        • Linda O'Donnell says:

          Barbara, I’m in my late 70’s and have never felt out of place, although my computer skills aren’t good enough to always keep pace with everything. I am a retired language arts teacher at the high school and college level. I thought I knew books, but have been amazed at what I’ve learned in the past eight months with the book club. Come back. You’ll be glad you did.

      • Mary Ann Frontz says:

        I am 75 and I thoroughly enjoy Book Club, Book School, and all that MMD Book Club has to offer. I don’t want to give this up … I am learning so much, even at my age!!

      • Carol Quan says:

        I also found that I was older than most book club members, but think I will sign up for a quarterly membership. I like that there are classes, which weren’t available when I was a member before. Another issue I have is that most of the events are at times when I watch my grandkids so that means watching the recorded events. 🤔

  1. MARILYNN PATTERSON says:

    I am just so thankful for Book School; it has changed my reading life. Plain and simple!!!! Keep up the good work.

  2. Suzanne C says:

    I don’t think I could pick a favorite moment from this past year of MMD Book Club- such good memories! My reading life improves on a daily basis. If you’re thinking about joining, do it. You won’t regret it.

  3. Jessica W says:

    So many great moments!! I only joined in July but this club has been a GREAT light in my life in these dark times. Ginger, thanks for all you do behind the scenes for this community.

  4. Debbie Hammer says:

    I’ve always been a reader. I reached a point a few years ago where I was actively searching for “something “…better books, discussion, community. Enter Modern Mrs. Darcy. All the events discussed here by Ginger that we’ve done this year shows the enormous influence of our wonderful community. It’s just what the doctor ordered for me, and I am grateful.

  5. Cheryl says:

    What an inspiring post! I’m going to send Santa an amended Wish List…!
    2020 was my first full year following all the MMD activities and I enjoyed it all, especially the Patreon extras!
    Please…when will the 2021 READING CHALLENGE be revealed??? I can’t wait to start planning
    Happy Holidays!

  6. Book School alone was worth the cost of membership for me, then add in the author chats, the book events, plus all the great forums, and see why this annual membership was my favorite birthday gift this year! Thanks so much for all you do for the MMD community, Ginger. 📚❤️

  7. Michelle Wilson says:

    MMD book club to me is priceless. It is waaaaaay less money than a Starbucks habit brings me joy on am almost daily basis. I would just like to thank all of you at MMD HQ! Especially, during these crazy times, I feel like you have saved my life!

  8. Julia says:

    Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club has possibly been the best thing I’ve done for myself to weather the storm that has been 2020! Classes, Community, Converstion…sweet bookish goodness! Thank you Ginger for all you do!

  9. megantm says:

    I treated myself to a MMD Book Club membership in the Spring and it has brought me so much joy during these difficult times. It feels amazing to “go” to book club, when we are literally going nowhere right now. I also appreciate how past events are recorded so I don’t feel obligated to attend an event at a certain day/time if it doesn’t work with my schedule. I have also been going back and watching author chats that happened before I joined (Jennifer Robson talking about The Gown is a favourite). This is a great community to belong to.

  10. Melissa Hutton Baglien says:

    This community has been the very best thing in an otherwise rough year. I love having fun things to look forward to and the structure of events on my calendar when so much has been canceled. I’ve enjoyed the book selections and book school so much. The only thing that would make it better is having everyone as friends in real life and not just online. Thanks for all the hard work that goes into this community.

  11. Dee says:

    This really does make me want to join the Book Club but it also looks like so much pressure to me! Secret confession: I’m glad that my in-person book club is a little lax so we only meet *about* every other month. Book clubs mean that I read what I’m told to read and not always what I’ve been personally planning to read. If you had a half-membership or a choose-your-own adventure membership, I would join. But I like my reading to be stress free and monthly activities is just too much for me!

    • Ginger Horton says:

      Ooo, tell us more about a what a choose-your-own adventure membership would look like to you!

      I will say we have plenty of members who definitely skip books each month if it’s not right for them, and just come to the live video recording and no one’s the wiser. That’s the BEAUTY of an online book club. Zero judgment if you didn’t read the book. ☺️ Who’s to know??

  12. Kate Dillingham says:

    I am so grateful for all of the events and activities in the MMD Book Club. I knew that I’d be reading A LOT in 2020, as I retired in January. Add the stay at home recommendations due to COVID-19, and I’ve read about 3 times the number of books I’d read in past years. The conversation in the forums, in the chats, in book school, etc have all greatly contributed to the quality of my reading life. Thank you all so much and I can’t wait for future bookish events!

  13. Hilary says:

    oh my- you all are doing such a good job of selling the MMD book club! (sends husband link to join as a Christmas gift to moi)

  14. nichole says:

    Just wanted to chime in to say that I read so many wonderful books the year– books that I would never have picked up on my own. The seasonal guides and the Reading this Week group have really helped me choose the right book at the exact right time, all year long.

  15. Claudia Templer says:

    I have loved all the Book School sessions this year! I have learned so much, and it’s made getting into the books I read so much more interesting and fun! I’ve so enjoyed the authors interviews and plan to go back watch the ones I’ve missed—so glad they are recorded. Thanks so much Anne, Ginger, for all the wonderful work you do. And to Chelsea for your work this year for Book School classes!
    Sign me up for another year’s membership!

  16. Tammy says:

    I don’t travel outside the fantasy/adventure/non-fiction genre often. It would be fun to be a part of a book club experience online, though. I may have to look into this for a fun Christmas gift to myself!

  17. Carol Quan says:

    Reading these books has definitely convinced me to sign up. Lots of older ladies (68) in the group. I am going for the Quarterly membership. So many great comments. I’m excited! I think I will do this rather the Reading Challenge since I am already signed up for a different one.

  18. Chris Dykeman says:

    The above comments have been helpful. I am 63 and had wondered if the club was mostly considerably younger. Good to know the ages are varied.
    Wondering how the Book club and yearly Reading Challenge work together. Do they mesh somehow?

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