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Confessions of book club skeptic

December 11, 2019
clock 5 MIN READ

I admire people who know who they are, operate with integrity, know how to have fun and never take themselves or others too seriously. This admiration has led me into a great friendship with a colleague, and I asked this friend to provide her perspective on our book club. So let’s welcome back Bridget Keeley, and see what she has to say. 

I was a book club skeptic. Until recently, I had never participated in a book club, although I love to read. Or at least I used to love to read – back when I had time to read. Or at least time to read more than one paragraph before being interrupted by a little person who needs a glass of water or help with their homework, or by a phone that beeps every time an email or text comes in, or I fall asleep before finishing the last line in that first paragraph. 

Before all of that – I used to love to read.

I never participated in a book club. I think I was selfish about reading.  How I felt about a book was my thing and I really didn’t care how someone else felt about the book, so why bother. Don’t get me wrong – I like people and I like getting together – but do you need to read a book to do that?  Truthfully, I never really understood it.

Then a couple of years ago

We started a book club at work. 

It was an idea generated to find ways for a newly formed team to get to know each other on a more personal level. Something about it made me give it a try. It was different – for work and for me. Truth be told the first book was a somewhat heavy business book that I struggled to get through, and almost didn’t attend that first meeting. But my boss, the famed Front and Centered author – Al Chiaradonna – made me go.  

Ok, so I wasn’t forced, but I was strongly encouraged. He said, “It’s about the conversation and doesn’t matter if you didn’t finish the book, you should go.” Maybe he knows parties are better when I attend?  I’m not sure. But anyway, I went. And mostly I listened. Well, at first, I mingled. It was a group of people that in large part I did not interact with daily at the office, but knew on a more peripheral level. And at book club, I had conversations with all of them, not just about their jobs, but their families, their interests and in some cases, their struggles. It was genuinely easy, fun and authentic.

Then we sat down to talk about the book and that’s when I listened. I heard my colleagues (my new friends) share completely diverse perspectives on what they took away from the book. I also heard some say they struggled to get through it – I was not alone! 

But mostly, I heard them share opinions that revealed more about who they were as people and I found that fascinating. So THIS is what book club is all about. Aha! I get it now.

Fast forward 2 years

We have read 11 books, 4 in 2019. Al recently asked me to write a blog and share my own personal favorite of the year. When I sat down to do that, I couldn’t help but reflect on the journey and all the books we have read. My favorite book of all, although we didn’t read it this year, was "Educated" - a memoir about a girl who grew up with survivalist extremist parents, off the grid in Idaho. I still recommend that book to people all the time. It was fascinating and because it’s based on true events, I found myself going a little “stalker researcher” online to get more of the story.

This year we read 4 books: "This is Marketing," "Bad Blood," "The Happiness Advantage" and "Talking to Strangers."

My favorite had to be “Bad Blood” – the Elizabeth Holmes / Theranos story, another true story about the rise and fall of a Silicon Valley start-up. Like “Educated,” you can go deep into the interwebs to learn all sorts of additional details beyond the book. As this was a widely publicized scandal, with a documentary on Netflix and a CEO who has been interviewed dozens of times, you can really become your own forensic, investigative reporter (I may have a problem). 

I love the book because 1) You have to keep reminding yourself that this really happened and 2) It’s fascinating to read about the human psyche. The big thing I took away from this book is that it doesn’t matter how much money you have, or all that you have accomplished in your career – at the end of the day we are all human, and we all make mistakes. Some just make much bigger mistakes than others. I will leave it at that, but encourage you to read “Bad Blood” if you haven’t already – the story is amazing.

A book club convert

As we get ready to vote on our 12th book club book, which will kick off in 2020 – I realize I am a book club convert. I have been to almost every meeting, and I even hosted one at my house before we began running them at the office. 

The relationships I have built are the best part of the experience. They have led to sharing interests outside of books, which in turn has led to collaborating more naturally on projects, because I know these people on a deeper level. They have made coming to work feel more like walking into the living room of a good friend.  

So I keep reading, as best I can, as the world around me only gets more chaotic. I’ve realized how important – because of that very reason – it is to make the time for a little peace and quiet, a good book, and time with friends.  

Albert Chiaradonna

Executive Vice President, SEI Global Private Banking

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