Better read than dead: Bookworms of VCU break literary comfort zone

Melissa Anderson

Contributing Writer

The Bookworms of VCU, a monthly literary group, gathered Sunday evening at Lamplighter Roasting Company to discuss their winter read.

Enthused members discussed Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” over hot coffee.

“The appeal of The Bookworms is that the club motivates members to read books that … people wouldn’t ordinarily read on their own,” said senior urban planning major Gene Stroman, who formed the group in 2008. “It’s also a great way to meet people. I can think of at least three people I’ve met who are brand new to the area and came to a meeting because they saw a flyer posted.”

Since its beginnings as a group of about 15 like-minded friends, Bookworms of VCU has remained popular among both students and non-students – while the Bookworms are VCU-registered, participants are not required to be students.

The group underscores a smooth, relaxed dynamic, allowing for open and supportive discourse on the chosen book. There are on average around 20 members in attendance, who are split evenly between male and female, students and non-students.

Stroman said that what he admired about the group’s dynamic “is that it’s kind of exclusive on it’s own – I kind of like it being like a little group of friends more than a city-wide forum. That’s why I like to have the meetings in coffee shops, because it lends itself to that vibe – instead of sitting around in a circle in an empty room raising our hands.”

He added that the Bookworms are unique among the several VCU-based book clubs on campus.

“There is more of a collegiate vibe. We don’t read books like ‘Twilight’ or ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ although I’m sure they are great books,” Stroman said. “We read books that are more what’s classified as literature … And you can define that however you want.”

The book of the month is chosen using a democratic voting system: Each member in attendance is allowed to nominate a book and then allowed two votes of their own.

Nabeel Khan, Bookworms member and professor at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, said he joined the group because of this voting process.

“I wanted to read books not chosen by myself,” Khan said. “So in a way it throws something different and contemporary to my own reading lists, which tend to consist more of classic literature and philosophy.”

Bookworms’ “brother club” Cinema Talk – also created by Stroman – is a film club, which meets every two weeks to watch and discuss a film chosen the previous meeting. Cinema Talk members watch art house, independent, world, cult and classic films. CT

For more information on The Bookworms of VCU, visit their Facebook page or their Tumblr at

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