Raising the Bar for Book Clubs

Take notes, Reese Witherspoon: Books and Bars is the classic book club.

WORDS BY Sofia Haan

When Jeff Kamin moved to Minneapolis in 2003 and went searching for a book club, he quickly realized finding a group to chat literature was more difficult than he expected. “What I found at that time was stereotypically what book clubs used to be: predominantly women in neighborhood groups [who] maybe talked about the book for the first few minutes, said they didn’t read it, and used it as an excuse to drink wine together.” Of course, while there’s nothing wrong with this, Kamin was looking for more from a book club. So, he created his own: Books and Bars. 

The group, which will be celebrating 19 years in February, is open to anyone, regardless of gender, and seeks to make all attendees feel comfortable sharing literature together. B&B book selections generally favor literary fiction, but Kamin peppers in nonfiction, classics, graphic novels, or books that may receive a silver screen adaptation in the near future. To grease the wheels and get conversation flowing, club meetings are held in the Barrelhouse Taproom at Urban Growler. 

The evening begins with social time, where attendees can grab a drink and meet people. Kamin kicks off with an overview of the book and the author before diving into prepared questions. While he keeps the conversation moving, he enjoys when attendees are able to chime in and share their interpretations of the book. 

“A good discussion for me is one where I don’t have to do all the talking. I have some questions and some topics that I’ll go back to, but I’m interested in what you thought of the book,” he says. “I like to say we all read the same book, but none of us read the same book.” 

During the winter months, Books and Bars offers a virtual meeting opportunity for interested readers, as well as the in-person event. For December, the group will be discussing the Old Hollywood-inspired historical fiction novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Regardless of if you’ve read the book or are just interested in the discussion, Kamin welcomes all attendees to join. 

“Every time, there’s new people there and hopefully those new people become regulars. We’re welcoming and we’re open; you show up and you’re in.” 


Book of the month: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

Wednesday, December 14th, 6:30 PM, Free


Thursday, December 15, 7 PM, Free

Urban Growler, 2325 Endicott St., St. Paul



Tips: Venmo @Jeff-Kamin

Shop books: bookshop.org/shop/booksandbars