Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Discussing Books with the Istanbul Global Minds Book Club

I was proud to moderate
George Orwell's brilliant book
"Animal Farm"
at Global Minds Book Club
One of the Istanbul-based groups advertised on the Internations expatriate social network that attracted my attention was the fairly new “Global Minds Book Club.” I love reading and discussing books and have belonged to several book clubs over the years. The organizing mission of this group was to read books from all around the world and discuss them with people from all around the world who were currently residing in Istanbul.
Sinan, second from left,
moderated our discussion
of Harper Lee's
"To Kill A Mockingbird"
Global minds discussing global books: what an exciting idea! That was different than most book clubs organized in our home countries which feature friends of similar demographics discussing titles that are often targeted at that demographic. Those can often be a “great minds think alike” club.

I knew it would be a different type of book club when the first meeting I went to started with shots of melon liquor. While we may not have educational diversity (many members have graduate degrees) we do have national, religious, racial, ethnic, tribal and sect diversity.
Stalwart members
Matt and Işil
For the Turkish people who come to the meetings, it is often their first book club experience as there is no tradition of book club discussions in Turkey. There are many reasons for that. Widespread literacy is less than 100 years old in Turkey due to the change in alphabet. Stories in this part of the world are often shared orally rather than on the written page. The idea of discussing art, culture, politics, and life in a good-natured way with all kinds of different people that one doesn’t know very well is often considered a new and very foreign idea, especially when the premise is that the discussion takes place over a book. I tip my hat in appreciation to people of all nationalities who come to the club to discuss a book in English, frequently their second or third language.
Clarence Nartey, Founder
Global Minds Book Club
leading our discussion of
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's
"Half of a Yellow Sun"
Clarence Nartey, the man from Ghana who started the “Global Minds Book Club” is uniquely suited for the role.  As a marketing manager for a multinational corporation he has traveled all over the globe in his professional roles with visits to 20 countries (Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Togo, South Africa, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia,Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Turkey, UAE, France, UK , Spain and Israel), sometimes living in a country for a month at a time, and other times living there for a couple years. I remember when I got my first emails from him detailing how the group was organized, what we were reading, and when. I thought “this is MBA-level organization for a mere book club.”  Joyfully, our book club is both relaxed - often meeting poolside or in a picnic venue, and organized within an inch of its life!
We met under the gazebo
at my place
last summer to discuss
Haruki Murakami's
"After Dark"
We frequently meet in our different homes. This has prompted our members to travel all over Istanbul and gets us into neighborhoods we would not have a reason to visit otherwise. The club has become so successful that Clarence has considered dividing us into two groups, with a meeting simultaneously held on each continent. There are over 240 people on the email list, with around 15 responding positively that they will come, and a usual 8-10 actually making it. Not bad considering that coming to a discussion can involve up to a two-hour trip each way as people cross continents!
We were supposed to go swimming
after this meeting
but the discussion was so good
we never got in the pool
Clarence says, “what thrills me about reading now is not the act of reading a book, but now reading a book, organizing friends to share it and using the book as a springboard to elicit multiple and diverse perspectives from fellow readers.”  He has done that so beautifully and created such a lively community of book lovers here in Istanbul . Wanting to extract every bit of value from the experience, he has also asked the members to donate the books after the discussion to interested libraries or groups to help them broaden their reading horizons too.

Eventually, even the expatriates we rely on the most, like Clarence, must leave. That’s the nature of the expatriate experience – a short time together of meaningful intensity.

He has told the Global Minds Book Club that within a month or two he will be transferred to the continent of Africa. He is excited about returning to his home continent, but oh, will we miss him! In keeping with his tradition of stellar management, Clarence already has his replacement “Global Minds Book Club” organizer lined up. 

Our reading list to date:
Global Citizens - Mark Gerzon ( non-fiction)
Little Bee / The Other Hand - Chris Cleave (fiction)
Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell ( non-fiction) I joined here
Life of Pi - Yann Martel (fiction)
To Kill a Mocking Bird - Harper Lee (fiction)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan S. Foer (fiction)
After Dark - Haruki Murakami ( fiction)
The Gambler - Fyodor Dostoevsky( fiction)
Animal Farm - George Orwell (fiction)

The White Tiger -Aravind Adiga (fiction)
Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger (fiction)
Shah of Shahs- Ryszard Kapuscinski (non-fiction)
Half of a Yellow Sun -  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fiction)

 This book is easily my favorite discovery through the club!
Future Titles:
New York Trilogy - Paul Auster (fiction)
Cairo Modern - Naguib Mahfouz (fiction)
Sammarkand - Amin Maalouf  (fiction)
Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell (non-fiction)
Do you have an expat book club? Or a book club devoted to reading international titles? What has made it fun? Do you have a book recommendation for our club that your group enjoyed?

You may also like these posts:

Making Expat Friends Through Internations

Africa Day @ Global Minds Book Club

All my posts on books

 


6 comments:

Delhibound said...

Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman ?

Karen said...

Thank you for that book club suggestion! I absolutely loved that book. Rita Golden Gelman lived a wonderful life on very little money and led such a non-conventional American life as she traveled the world.

Vladimir said...

A group of book lovers in Istanbul, they choose a book for the month and get together to discuss regularly. And they share their own expperiences of reading that book and highlights of their meetings at; http://www.illederoman.com/

This is one of my favorite book clubs.

Karen said...

Thank you, Vladimir, for that link to an Istanbul book discussion group discussing in Turkish! Seeing that warms my heart.

Karen said...

Delhibound, Rita Golden Gelman came through Istanbul! Here's my post about her. What a happening lady: http://empty-nest-expat.blogspot.com/2012/08/hearing-tales-from-female-nomad-in.html

Karen said...

If you are an Istanbul resident and interested in learning more about the Global Minds book club, please message me at empty_nest_expat@yahoo.com.

 
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