This place is created as a sort of archive and a one-stop reference point for the readings of the Leiden Book Club – an informal but regular gathering of Leiden University students and alumni for the discussion, dissection, praising, occasional bashing, and altogether pleasurable savoring of books and especially short stories.
The Leiden Book Club was (thankfully) revived in 2013 (the details of previous Leiden book clubs, which I know had existed prior to 2013, are unknown to me; if someone is more knowledgeable on the topic, please feel free to share your thoughts and recollections in the comments) by Varia, the first meeting drawing the modest but eager crowd of four bookish current and former students of Leiden University, of various academic and national backgrounds.
The first reading (suggested via facebook by a girl who, curiously, never actually showed up for any of the book-club meetings) was Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – an innocuous-looking, can’t-really-go-wrong first choice, of – as per later book-club consensus – dubious literary quality.
The coordinated reading of a full-fledged novel turned somewhat unwieldy, however, with the inevitable downside of everybody having gotten at a different place in the book by the time of each book-club meeting. Additionally, worries were being raised by some that the book was nothing to write home about, so keeping at it was increasingly seen as an unjustifiably big investment of time and effort into something hardly worth the while.
And that’s how the suggestion came along of making short stories the main type of reading for our weekly meetings – a welcome idea that has been happily espoused by the club ever since (you know short stories are hot, right?), with the occasional play or poem thrown in.
The Leiden Book Club, now ably led by Stefka for almost a year, reads a short story (or two, or three; or even a play, whenever the fancy strikes us) a week – with a pronounced preference for fiction – and discusses it in the amicable ambience of Cafe Barrera in the center of Leiden. Understandably, the stories are normally in English, but we read and welcome stories (in translation) by authors of various nationalities as well as periods, styles, and renown. For a brief period, when the book club had shrunk to but two unwavering members, we only read stuff in Bulgarian.
This website will be a sort of repository for all the readings of the Leiden Book Club. It will provide links to the works, wherever available, and it will include the occasional announcement or piece of news. The list of readings from the first year or so will hardly be chronologically 100% correct, but it will hopefully be exhaustive. As the site is updated with the readings to come, chronology will sort itself out.
Updates on upcoming readings and events are regularly posted on the book club’s facebook page.
We welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions, and, of course, we welcome you to join our meetings, every Wednesday, 7:15 pm, at Cafe Barrera, Leiden.