You wouldn’t think adults would be so crazy nostalgic about checking off the books they read, harkening back to their summers spent reading library books. But say the words “adult summer reading program” and you’ve got our attention.
Enter Book Bingo and we’re hooked.
This summer, Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures brought grown-up readers across the city a summer reading program just for us — and we’re absolutely loving it. In Summer Book Bingo, each square on the bingo card is a challenge — read a book by a local author, read a book translated from another language, read a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, and so on. Get five in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally and you’ve got “bingo” (and a chance to win prizes).
But the best part? It’s not the prizes. The absolute best part is that people around the city are talking about what they’re reading. We’re hearing about it in our libraries, seeing people share what they’re reading for each square on Twitter and Instagram (#BookBingoNW), and listening in while readers offer each other suggestions to get to bingo.
Last summer, my favorite podcast, “Books on the Nightstand,” did a fabulous job starting conversations — and keeping them going — through its version of Book Bingo. Podcast hosts Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness offered suggestions each week on the podcast, and readers shared its suggestions, too. Its Goodreads group is impressive with 5,000 members; its discussions are topical and there are already more than 50 book bingo categories being discussed. People love to talk about what they’re reading and people love to read about what to read next.
Anyone can play along with “Books on the Nightstand” and players get different cards. You can get a randomized line up of reading challenges by printing from here (refresh before printing). I’m sure the intent is to take whichever card you’re handed, but I’ll admit to hitting refresh three times before printing. Sorry, I just really couldn’t face a book with footnotes, after not finishing David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest two summers in a row; my next card had “read a biography of someone you dislike” AND “read a book you think you’ll dislike.” Too much disliking for my summer reading … but a simple “refresh” and I’ve got a card that challenges, but isn’t a turn off.
Even if you don’t play the “BOTNS” version of Book Bingo, its podcasts, shownotes, and discussion boards are excellent places to get ideas for what to read next.
Seattle’s Book Bingo version (which has also made it to France and Médiathèque Languidic, a library in Languidic, for Biblio Bingo) has just one card. The categories are open-ended enough that it doesn’t seem to matter if you read fiction or nonfiction. And the good thing about one standardized card is that it brings some structure and commonalities to reading discussions around the city. You can walk into any library or independent book store and pick up a bingo card, talk to librarians and booksellers about what to read, maybe even talk with other customers or library patrons. There really is potential for three months of people talking about what they’re reading.
I find this city-wide focus on reading — and talking about books — extremely satisfying. Reading is, of course, solitary, yet so many of us are looking for a community of readers. We can read alone, together. We can talk about what we’re reading when we feel like it, if we feel like it. We can feel the satisfaction of finishing a good book and writing the title in a bingo square.
Right now my Book Bingo card is on my refrigerator. This is one summer reading program piece I plan to keep, long after summer ends.
This post originally appeared on Huffington Post 7/12/2015 here.