The virtual book club was conducted by Blaine Grimes, the Academic Coordinator for the Office of the Registrar who earned a B.A and MA in English at Tech.
The event was conceived upon Grimes' desire to unite people amidst trying times. He said, “Our world has really been divided, with COVID-19, social distancing and the elections, I thought, ‘what better time to bring people together than to start a book club?’ to bridge that gap.”
And so he did, dividing the event into three sessions. The first club meeting was conducted last night, Nov.2, the second on Nov.9 and the third on Nov.16, all from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for free via Zoom.
However, starting a book club was just half the work in Grime’s plan of unification. It was the selection of which book to bestow the responsibility of bringing college students, professors and staff together that was the real work.
It was J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit- the children’s fantasy book Grimes believed would do just the job.
He said, “With ‘The Hobbit,’ we’re looking at these very ordinary people, living ordinary lives, but are going on these big extraordinary adventures that a lot of us can’t have this year. Also, with the election season, no matter the outcome really, it can be pretty depressing to a lot of people, but ‘The Hobbit’ is a book of optimism, and we need that more than ever, so I thought it would be timely for that reason.”
Grimes also said he hoped this virtual book club would bring solace to science fiction and fantasy genre lovers who are having difficulties finding like-minded communities, given the social stigma science fiction and fantasy genres carry.
Grimes said he sometimes believed people thought so little of science fiction or fantasy to be just another form of “escapism.” However, Grimes explained there was more to the genre if one truly paid attention to its history.
“You know when Tolkien sat down to write ‘The Hobbit’ or when it was published in 1937, we were on the verge of a world war,” Grimes said. “Although Tolkien insisted that he didn't write allegories as C.S Lewis did with ‘Narnia’, a lot of people saw ‘The Hobbit’ and especially ‘The Lord of The Rings’ as allegories for World War 2. Some people may think it just entertainment, but in actuality, ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is a saga about darkness and an evil regime spreading over a land. Obviously, these are oppressive ideologies that we relate to in real life and these books show us how to fight it.”
However, in a world where there may be a bit too much fighting, Grimes said Alan Jacob’s How to Think was another book he believed everyone would do best to read.
He said “How to Think is really a call for civility and understanding in our public conversations. In such divided times, I think we all need a little bit more compassion, charity and understanding when we talk.”