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'A book club for rebels': Pages to Pints allows readers to share favorite stories

Anna Plumb speaks about “Educated: A Memoir” during the Dec. 5 meeting of the Pages to Pints book club at Bemidji Brewing. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- It may be a book club, but no one’s ever on the same page. In fact, that’s the whole point.

Over the last year, Pages to Pints has taken up residence once a month at Bemidji Brewing. As people begin to trickle in, a sign on one of the tables greets them, describing the event as “the book club for the uncommitted.”

True to its name, there are no rules when it comes to deadlines, page assignments or obligations in general. It’s a bring-your-own book, come-as-you-are, free exchange of stories with a little alcohol thrown in for good measure.

“It’s a completely different kind of book club,” said Nancy Benson, one of the readers who showed up for December’s meeting. “It’s a book club for rebels.”

The club is open to anyone who wants to attend. Everyone brings their own book and tells everyone else about it. For that matter, though, people can go without a book and just listen to everyone else… or comment … or ask questions.


During December’s meeting, Benson brought a copy of “Gulp” by Mary Roach. Benson described Roach as “one of the best science writers you will ever come across” and proceeded to read a few passages out of the book.

Sitting a couple seats over, David Young-Stephens brought a paperback copy of “Summer Knights” by Jim Butcher. It’s the fourth installment in a series. Young-Stephens described it as a modern fantasy story that, among other things, includes toads falling from the sky. Young-Stephens said he was liking it so far, although he added a disclaimer at the end.

“Full disclosure, I’m only 10 pages in,” Young-Stephens said.

One after another, the conversation would shift around the table as the next reader would hold up their book and talk about it to the rest of the club. After a short summary of the book, the exchanges would begin. One reader would get out their phone to snap a picture of someone else’s book so they could look it up later. Another scribbling down notes would ask someone to clarify the spelling of the author’s name just mentioned a moment before.

It’s not even a requirement to bring a traditional book. Tom Whiting brought a case of CDs containing the audiobook “Spying on the South” by Tony Horwitz. Arle Hagberg said she “cheats” and talks about the books she sees on C-Span’s program “Book TV: Television for serious readers.”

Just because someone brings a book to talk about doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to give it a rave review, either.

Benson’s husband Noel also came to Pages to Pints. He told the group how he likes to pick up an “easy, fun read” when he’s traveling or waiting for someone. He brought in a copy of “Murder in the Bastille,” by Cara Black.

He gave it a passing grade.


“It’s good enough,” Noel Benson said about the book, garnering a few laughs from around the table.

Bemidji Librarian Ara Gallo said he got the idea for the club after hearing about a similar group in New York. Bemidji’s version took hardly any time to get off the ground. Although there were only 10 people in December’s meeting, other gatherings have brought in 25 to 30 people.

Carey HeartBorne said that while a traditional book club may allow readers to really dive into the text and explore the writing, Pages to Pints allows them to see the array of different books on the market. Some of the books that show up at the club she’s already heard about.

However, even if she has already heard of the title, hearing someone talk about it at Pages to Pints might be just the push she needs to finally pick it up.

“I feel like this is about breadth rather than depth,” HeartBorne said of the club.

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