Books are saving me right now.
I’m not someone who works in an essential profession like health care, so the main thing I can do to fight the coronavirus pandemic is stay home and help flatten the curve. Staying home right now can absolutely save lives, and I am lucky to work in a job that allows me to do so — but a lot of times, what staying home looks like for me is me sitting on my couch, staring at a screen, scrolling through terrifying news stories and knowing that after I’ve donated to the cause of my choice and called my representatives, the only thing I can truly do to help is continue to stay home. It’s difficult.
Books give me a reason to turn my attention away from the endless churn of headlines and look at something static, something with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. They give me a way to think through what is happening right now without having to look directly at it. And they remind me that the world was not always like this, and that it will not always be like this in the future.
Here’s another thing books are good for: They are fantastic tools for building a community. I made all of my best friends by finding people who were reading the same books I was reading and then talking to them about those books. And now, even when my friends and I are far apart — or geographically close but separated by social distancing — we can still read the same books. And we can talk about those books together.
Now, I’d like to talk about books with you, dear reader. To help us all get through this time, Vox is starting a book club.
The Vox Book Club pick for April is N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became
Here’s how it will work: Every month, we’ll pick a book. We’ll go through it week by week, with a discussion post going up on the site every Friday. The discussion post will contain thoughts and discussion questions from me, your humble book critic, but we’ll also have comments turned on and moderated so you can share your thoughts, too. Talk among yourselves! Post your opinions and questions! Or, if you’d rather not talk with us, use our discussion posts as a jumping-off point for (socially distanced) discussions with your own friends and family. And at the end of the month, we’ll hold a live discussion on Zoom.
The vibe is going to be analytical, thoughtful, respectful, and intimate. Book selections will vary widely, but we’ll be reading more fiction than nonfiction. (For suggestions on wonky policy reading material, listen to our good friends on Vox’s The Weeds podcast.) We are all indoor kids here, Now More Than Ever, and we want to unpack these books with the kind of nerdy attention to detail you expect from Vox — but we also want to have fun and be kind to one another. This club is about building a community through our love of engaging and challenging books.
Since there is no time like the present, our first official book club discussion post will go up next week. April’s pick will be N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became, an immensely joyful new fantasy novel in which New York City and its five boroughs come to life. There’s lots to think about here: reactionary politics, the resilience of cities, world-building, and whether New York is as special as it thinks it is.
There are a few ways you can get your hands on a copy without leaving your house. Most local libraries will allow you to digitally borrow an ebook for two weeks for free, and you can get access either through your library’s website or through a free app like Libby. You can also purchase the book as an ebook through Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Play, Google Books, Kobo, or eBooks.com.
If you want a physical copy, you can call your local independent bookstore to see if they are making deliveries or offering curbside pickup (many are), or you can order a copy of the book through Bookshop, which supports indie bookstores. Note that Amazon is not currently prioritizing book orders, which may cause shipping delays.
When our discussion of The City We Became kicks off next week, we’ll be chatting about everything from the prologue up through chapter 5 (you can also see the full schedule for April below). Come and join us. Bring a friend or six. I can’t wait to talk books with you.
Here’s the full Vox Book Club schedule for April 2020
Friday, April 3: The fun begins! We’ll start by reading the prologue and first five chapters of N.K. Jemisine’s The City We Became, with discussion kicking off in one week.
Friday, April 10: Discussion covering prologue – chapter 5 (pp. 1–138)
Here’s the link to our first discussion: As the book opens, New York City is born. What happens next?
Friday, April 17: Discussion covering chapters 6 – 10 (pp. 139–290)
Friday, April 24: Discussion covering chapters 11 – coda (pp. 291–434)
TBD: Live Q&A on Zoom, details TBD. To be notified by email once we have set a date and time for the live event, fill out our Google form here.