CULTURE

Getting people reading with a campaign to promote book clubs

Promoting reading is a core mission of the National Book Center (EKEBI), which has launched a new campaign to promote book clubs. EKEBI won’t do the hands-on organizing, the center’s director Catherine Velissaris explained, but it has already produced 200,000 attractive leaflets, handbooks, posters, postcards and bookmarks to promote book clubs and explain how to set them up, and it will offer support to anyone who starts a book club. It will also run briefings in towns throughout Greece and is working on a video. Twenty leading Greek writers have signed up to help present the campaign, starting from January to May in Thessaloniki, Volos, Nafplion, Halkida, Kastoria, Drama, Veria, Patras, Rhodes, Larissa, Kalamata and Livadia. Popular in many other countries, book clubs are still in their infancy in Greece, but there is every reason to believe they will catch on. Writer Lena Divani was among those who praised the project at a press conference Tuesday, recounting her own experience of how a book club can be a lifesaver. «It fills a gap,» she said. To those who wondered whether the idea would catch on in Greece, another writer, Vangelis Raptopoulos, pointed out that while Greeks might not be used to book clubs, they are certainly used to doing things in groups with friends. Writer Apostolos Doxiadis, who has extensive experience of reading groups for school pupils, helped EKEBI on the project and gave a presentation of how book clubs operate. «I wasn’t at all surprised,» said Raptopoulos, «that all the examples Doxiadis cited of existing clubs were groups of friends or workmates.» Book clubs, Doxiadis noted, can choose to discuss books of any genre. There are no hard and fast organizational rules, but basic ground rules are best agreed upon in advance: For instance, members meet at regular intervals (which suit them) to talk about books (not to gossip about work or home) and mobile phones are switched off. For groups with little experience of books and reading, a local librarian or bookseller might propose books for discussion. For those who like classical Greek works, writer Takis Theodoropoulos will organize a book club at EKEBI starting in January 2007. There will be room for about 20 members, who will meet every second Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (For information, visit www.ekebi.gr.)