Editor's note:

When you’re talking books in general—and book clubs in particular—it’s difficult to imagine a more enthusiastic conversationalist than our own Justine Olawsky. We caught up with her at the Renovaré HQ this week and asked her a few questions about book clubs she has known and what’s in store for the Renovaré Book Club this season. 

—Renovaré Team

So, Justine, we have heard that you used to lead a book club back when you worked at Barnes & Noble. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Sure. It was a non-fiction book club, which made it the wildest and wooliest of all the in-store clubs. We read everything from biographies to socio-political criticism, to modern pop science, to general history, and so on.

What was so cool about it was that it was small and really close knit. We met for over a year, and even after I left B&N, I still returned for a while to read through books with this group. They gave me a meat-and-potatoes cookbook after hearing my despair over ever finding enough recipes to satisfy my Midwestern husband. They worried and prayed with me as the months slipped by while he and I were trying to start a family. They sent me off with congratulations when I had our daughter. 

When you bond over books, you are bonding over some of the most important things in life—ideas about who we are and why we’re here and how and why things happen get discussed together—all in a place where it’s OK to disagree, and you never have to worry about not being heard.

Interesting stuff. So, you help our Director of Education, Carolyn Arends, with the Renovaré Book Club. What do you think makes our Book Club distinct?

Is Carolyn going to read this?? Just kidding. What I love most about the Renovaré Book Club is that the passion for books is a thread that runs through all levels of our Club—from the committee that chooses the books each spring, to the expert facilitators who lead us through the sessions, to each member who signs up. Everyone here at Renovaré just loves books. It’s a bookish sort of place, so it is quite appropriate that we draw our book-loving constituency along on this adventure with us every year.

There is so much care in choosing the books each year. We try to have two new offerings that have a timeless sort of sense to them, and then two classic books. Of course, we always love to read through new books from our staff and ministry team. This season, we’re starting with God-Soaked Life from our former president, Chris Webb, and ending with Living Wisely with the Church Fathers from our current president, Chris Hall. 

So, presidential Book Club season bookends, both named Chris? How fun!

Oh yes. Then in the middle, two modern classics—Corrie ten Boom’s spiritual memoir The Hiding Place, led by beloved Ministry Team member—and Corrie’s BFF— Marti Ensign, and C.S. Lewis’s epistolary exploration of the enemy The Screwtape Letters, led by Podcast favorite Robert Moore-Jumonville (also known as Mojo!).

Is there anything new and exciting we should know about this year’s Renovaré Book Club? 

Of course! The first thing that is a little new for us is that we are reading through our first novel together, The Screwtape Letters. We are looking forward to hearing our members’ feedback on that.

The second thing is a completely revamped online discussion format. Many of our members really look forward to engaging with each other while reading these books, and technology has been a challenge for us. This year, we’re excited to try a new platform that will be more intuitive, simpler, and more fun.

That leads me to the last new initiative in this year’s Book Club: local in-person meetups! One thing we truly believe at Renovaré is that spiritual formation is best done in the context of community—and spiritual formation Book Clubs even more so! Our members have been hungry for face-to face gatherings, and so this year, we are piloting regional meetups.

We have about 60 volunteers helping us coordinate these across the world so far, so please go ahead and check out our map to see if one is near you.

Rumor has it that you are hosting a local meetup, Justine.

That is one rumor that happens to be true! I live in South King County WA and will be hosting a once-a-month get together in Renton. If you live nearby, please consider joining us!

By the way, there are a couple of other Renovaré staffers you can spot “in the wild” hosting regional meetup groups—Nathan Foster will be gathering folks together in St. Augustine, Florida, and Carolyn Arends will be hosting a group in Surrey, BC, Canada. 

Thanks for taking the time to share a little bit about the Renovaré Book Club. Anything else you’d like to add before we sign off?

You bet. Registrations are now open. We’ll see you in the stacks! 

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