Since 2004, Books & Bars participants have made their way through more than 150 books. Much has changed over those 11 years, including event locations and the attendees. Through it all, one thing has remained constant: host Jeff Kamin.
Books & Bars was originally sponsored by the now-defunct Bound To Be Read, and was hosted monthly at Bryant-Lake Bowl. Nowadays, it takes place in three different cities each month (that's three meetings covering one book), hitting St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Excelsior at a variety of locations. "It's a different group and a different discussion at each place, even though it's the same book," Kamin notes.
The idea of the club is to get people to discuss their passions, which often vary widely from one crowd to another. "Reading is such a solitary thing. [It's] this thing you do alone for hours," he says. At events, he hopes readers will "come away with a different perspective."
Kamin's improv background from his former life in Los Angeles helps the meetups along. During happenings, he attempts to straddle a line between entertainer and lecturer. He feels this has improved with experience.
So what has changed in doing the same gig for 11 years?
First, it's not the same club. The concept is in constant flux. "I've learned to go with my gut," he says of picking titles, which is done with help from members and a trusted circle of readers. Sometimes the group reads science-fiction, sometimes it's a classic work. Sometimes it's even a graphic novel.
Over 11 years, the crowds have fluctuated as well, with regular attendees going through major life events such as marriages and kids that affect attendance. Now it's at the point where some who were home-bound with babies are now returning as their kids grow up.
"Luckily we were going and getting stronger at a time when social media came in," he says. "I think it kept us strong and vital in a sense that we added social media. It wasn't just Booksandbars.com, but the conversation could continue with Instagram and hashtags."
So what keeps Kamin going?
"It's so much a part of my identity of being in the Twin Cities," he says. "If you can combine your passions with your job, and actually get paid to do something you love -- like reading and talking about books -- it's a great thing."
He's also contemplating expansion ideas. "I've done some road-trip shows in smaller towns in Minnesota," he says. He's also exploring options such as video chats with other cities.
Kamin also hosts TPT's Must Talk TV, a show where fans of television programs like Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and House of Cards meet up to discuss the show.
On Tuesday, Books & Bars will meet at Republic (Calhoun Square) to discuss The Martian by Andy Weir. They will also host a book swap, recycling old books and donating to the library of Huss Center for Recovery, an addiction treatment center in Minneapolis. Must Talk TV will meet this Thursday at Republic 7 Corners to discuss Game of Thrones.
IF YOU GO:
Books & Bars This months book is Andy Weir's The Martian Free Tuesday, April 14 at Republic; 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 21 at the Happy Gnome; 6:15 p.m. Locations, upcoming titles, and additional information can be found on the Books & Bars website.