Born of a Twitter joke, striving for an official Wikipedia page (as much as a Skype chat with Don DeLillo), and initiating every meeting over a shotgunned beer, PBR Book Club is anything but your quiet reading corner. “About four years ago, a bunch of people were like ‘We should just read a bunch of ridiculously hard books, and then get together and talk about them over hipster beers and be super pretentious’”, Allison Puderbaugh explains, laughing. “But then people were like ‘No but wait, I would totally do that’.”
Founding members opted to run with it, and monthly meet-ups began. After tackling David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, the group launched their own Twitter handle and designed a logo (“Because that’s how you know you’re official”, Allison laughs.) and grew steadily from there.
Allison explains, “After about five or six months, a publisher reached out and said, ‘Hey read my guy’s book, and you can talk to him via Skype’. We thought that sounded ridiculous, so naturally, we said yes.”
The crew set about reading A Very Minor Prophet by James Bernard Frost, and collected at a member’s apartment for the actual Skype conversation. “Her husband hooked it all up so Skype was on the television”, Allison elaborates. “James was super nice! There were maybe 10 to 12 of us there, but he answered all of our questions.”
“We use Skype”, she explains, “but we also extend an actual invitation to authors too. When Gary Shteyngart passed through Kansas City, we took him out for ribs. And we shared four different kinds of deviled eggs with J. Robert Lennon. Sam Pink and Scott McClanahan got wicked cool gift baskets.”
Over the years, PBR Book Club has expanded to more than 50 members (and counting)- and considers Skype chats with writers a regularly occurring event. “Book Club was last night,” Allison adds, “and we talked to Jeff Jackson on Skype. It was lovely.”
In addition to answering the club’s various questions about his book Mira Corpora from his office (boasting suspicious shower-curtain-like drapes behind him), Jeff even kicked-off the Skype session by—you guessed it—shotgunning his own chilled PBR.
So what’s in store for the future of PBR Book Club?
Well, John William’s Stoner is slated for this month’s read, the beers are in the cooler, and—should any authors care to discuss their work in greater detail—Skype is set up and ready.
“But mostly,” Allison adds, “we just want to be on Wikipedia.”