Season 3 Episode 34: Karen Saunders on Books, Book Clubs & Belonging

A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” Madeleine L’Engle

Karen Saunders – St. Peter’s Square, in Vatican City

Welcome to Tea Toast & Trivia.

Thank you for listening in. 

I am your host Rebecca Budd, and I am looking forward to sharing this moment with you.  

I am delighted and thrilled that my long-time friend, Karen Saunders, has joined me on Tea Toast & Trivia to discuss how book clubs build compassionate communities and encourage life-long learning. 

Karen called New Brunswick home. That is, until her family decided to settle on the other side of Canada in North Vancouver, British Columbia.  Karen is passionate about literature, languages, and books.  She attended the University of Victoria and graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts, a double major in English Literature and French Language.  In 1983, Karen obtained a Master of Library Science from McGill University, Montréal, QC.   During all her studies, she married the love her of life, Patrick.  

Patrick’s medical training and Navy career gave Karen the opportunity to experience the breadth of Canada.  Moving from Montreal to Vancouver, to Halifax, then Victoria and back to Langley, British Columbia, while raising three children and running a successful small business, her life has been full of adventure.  

At 50, Karen recognized a call to ordained ministry and spent four years in training for the role of a Deacon in the Anglican Church of Canada.  Nine years have passed since her ordination, each year offering her opportunities to participate in ministries involving education, liturgical services, and pastoral care.

Karen embraces life with enthusiasm and is open to new possibilities. An avid reader since the age of three, she believes books and book clubs bring people together to learn, to explore and find belonging.  

So put the kettle on and add to this discussion on Tea Toast & Trivia.

A special thank you, Karen, for sharing how book clubs offer friendship and a place of belonging. 

Thank you for joining Karen and me on Tea Toast & Trivia. This is your invitation to join the conversation. We look forward to your thoughts on reading, books, books clubs, belonging and community.

Until next time we meet, dear friends, keep safe and be well.

Karen Saunders on Books, Book Clubs & Belonging Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

54 Replies to “Season 3 Episode 34: Karen Saunders on Books, Book Clubs & Belonging”

    1. Thank you for joining Karen and me in the Book Club. I just downloaded the Rose Code and am looking forward to the read! I love reading and I enjoy the conversations that occur in a vibrant community of readers.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. A pleasure to listen to this engaging podcast. Book clubs can be wonderful, and it sounds like Karen’s fits that description! Very interesting to hear how it started, how it operates, the friendships it nurtures, etc.

    It was also nice to hear author Kate Quinn mentioned; I love her riveting novels “The Alice Network” and “The Huntress.”

    That Margaret Atwood “ban”? Hmm…I think she’s a terrific author; I’ve read most of her novels. Perhaps her work is overexposed in Canada? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I should add that having friendly differences of opinion about what we think of authors and books (as was discussed in the podcast) makes things interesting!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That is the best conversation of all, Dave! Our reading experience is enhanced and becomes more meaningful simply because we have read a book and have talked about what we read.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I knew that you will take notice of that third rule about Margaret Atwood. Karen acknowledged Margaret Atwood as an icon. Perhaps, as you noted, she is possibly overexposed in Canada, although I rather doubt that idea. We hear a great deal about her and she is a great writer and supporter of new writers and authentic conversations. Karen says she gets a reaction every time she mentions that rule, which seems to attract interest in the book club. I believe it is because the participants want to embrace a broad range of topics that include writers from all over the globe. Their book list for the 2021 – 2022 season is quite eclectic. I believe that your blog is a marvelous book club, Dave. I am excited by how our ability to connect virtually is creating more opportunities to talk about books.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “I believe it is because the participants want to embrace a broad range of topics that include writers from all over the globe” — makes total sense as one of the reasons for the book club avoiding Margaret Atwood’s work. 🙂 Thank you, Rebecca!

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I confess I have never read a book by Margaret Atwood. I have just come back from non-fiction to fiction a couple of years ago and I want to explore stories other than those that involve dystopian futures. While I understand that these books allow us to contemplate how we would react in difficult circumstances, most times they build upon with existing ideas. I have read 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 etc but to me they seem to reflect and speak to current issues and fears rather than to “emergence” that occurs within complex systems. But that is just my thoughts which are always subject to change and digressions (YIKES). Margaret Atwood’s writing is brilliant and flows. I just read her introduction to “A Secret Sisterhood” by Emma Claire Sweeney and Emily Midorikawa. Her insights are remarkable. I am going to look into her poetry and will one day read one of her books, but right now, I have a full stack of books, and have stocked up on teas. September is around the corner and the winter months beckon with their promise many hours of reading.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Surfacing isn’t dystopian. It’s more a middle-aged angsty, feminist kind of thing, and I just didn’t have the patience for it. I haven’t tried to read more of her work because we’re living in a dystopian world. The last thing I want to do is read about one.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh Liz – I laughed out loud when I read your comments. We are living in a brave new world!! What I find comforting is that the books are still be written and read.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I have commented elsewhere, but I want to add here that this conversation between the two of you has been a challenge and encouragement to me. Karen’s love of books, since three years old and her travels through much of the world has introduced her to new and different experiences. I am sure this has given her an insight to different languages and cultures that she has been able to pass to friends. One of her biggest contributions to her friends and acquaintances is her initiation of a very active book club. Discussing and debating the books and sharing different and opposite opinions, I am sure has caused the members of the club so grow mentally–and joyfully, too. Thank you for this valuable discussion.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am delighted that you listened in to this podcast discussion, Frances. This past year I have been encouraged to read books that have been translated, which has opened me to a greater understanding of the cultures presented. It has been a wonderful experience. I remember our best conversations over the years have occurred over dinner when we discussed books. Dad loved talking about books and he encouraged an active and vital connection to reading.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi Rebecca, I enjoyed this discussion with Karen. I don’t belong to a book club and I found Karen’s description of hers lovely. The reasons I don’t belong to one is that I don’t really read contemporary novels and I don’t know of a club that reads the sort of books I read. I like engaging on-line with you and Dave and other lovers of classic books. I find reads that interest me. I certainly wouldn’t be re-reading Divine Comedy if it weren’t for you, Rebecca.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think that Dave Astor’s blog is a book club! I look forward to meeting up on Sunday mornings and joining into an eclectic discussion. It is a place that welcomes books and book lovers. I am so glad that you are rereading the Divine Comedy. I am in the middle of #KaramazovReadalong – my first experience with a readalong. It has been enlightening and enjoyable. Reading one chapter per day allows me to pause and reflect. Usually I prefer moving quickly through the narrative, but this has been an excellent experience to slow down and savour the words.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hi Rebecca, I am doing the same with Divine Comedy although I am not posting my chapters every day and am way behind. I think I will change over to blog posts where I can share more and hopefully get more traction with discussion. I agree about Dave’s posts. I try to pick them up early on Monday morning. I enjoy this topics very much.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you very much for the kind words about my blog, Rebecca and Robbie! I am a great admirer of your blogs as well! And of a certain series of podcasts. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I hadn’t thought of Dave’s blog as a book club, but you’re right, Rebecca. It is. I, too, look forward to his Sunday post every week.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you joined the conversation, Marina. Books have become our way of travel these past months. Last year, I read Circe by Madeline Miller to travel to your side of the world. Hope all is well on your side. You have been in my thoughts these past days. Sending hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah, yes… books are always a great way to travel! Thank you, my dearest friend. Things seem to be ‘fire free’ at the moment and weather is back to normal! Many more hugs back to you!

        Liked by 3 people

  4. This was a great interview, and if I ever think about signing off early, Rebecca, I will remember that it was near the end that Karen recommended “The Rose Code.” When I traveled to London (on business), the one place I had to see was Bletchley Park. I will be adding that book to my library soon.

    I have never been in a book club, but I have discussed books with friends. If the opportunity presents itself, I might give it a try.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Like you, I have been fascinated by Bletchley Park and all the amazing things that were achieved to safeguard our nations. Thank you for listening in and joining the conversation. I have downloaded “The Rose Code” is audio format and am looking forward to “reading” it this winter. I am now on Klara and the Sun, which is thought provoking. I have only been involved in one book club in the past, but my schedule was so busy that I couldn’t finish the book that was being read so had to drop out. I especially appreciated Karen’s welcome to the bookclub even to those who hadn’t had the time to read the book. Sometimes life just happens and time runs out. Oh for another 2 hours/day to read.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Books have a wonderful way of bringing people together. I have been interested in how bookclubs are formed and how they are able to sustain their momentum over the years. There is an ebb and flow in every community. But one thing is certain, the story continues. I believe that Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is a vital form of a book club. We have learned a great deal over the past year about building strength in the virtual world. Exciting times. Sending many hugs – thanks for your visit and comments!!!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thank you for including the blog as part of that amazing book reading concept that I know has inspired many to take up writing themselves. We have learned a great deal over this last year and also a better appreciation of how important this online community is… ♥♥

        Liked by 3 people

  5. A lovely podcast conversation, Rebecca and Karen. What I thought was most exciting about your book club, Karen, was the wide variety of books! Wow. I’ve belonged to book clubs before and enjoyed the fellowship, but we weren’t quite as adventurous. That’s so interesting that zoom worked almost better than in person, and I like the hybrid idea. You have a wonderfully engaged group and the discussions sound wonderful. 🙂 Thanks for all the ideas about finding or starting a book club. And no Margaret Atwood? How interesting. Happy Reading.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I knew that you would like that idea of “no Margaret Atwood.” That rule attracts interest every time Karen mentions it. Over the course of the past year, Zoom has become a catalyst for connecting across the world. It has changed people’s attitude towards technology, brought about my our limited mobility. Humanity will always find a way to find a way to gather and that gives me great comfort!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I really like Margaret Atwood, Rebecca. Does she ever raise issues for discussion! It seemed strange to me that her books alone would be singled out. And zoom makes sense. I thought it was great that Karen and her book club use it to be more inclusive.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. It seems that Margaret Atwood brings out the best discussions. She is an icon in Canada and is very popular. What I am interested in pursuing these days is writers that I am following. When there is a connection with an author , I gain a much greater insight into the story. Now that would make a great podcast conversation!

        Liked by 3 people

      3. That’s one of the reasons I like reading indie books – I know the authors. I fill up with questions about their creative process, their inspiration, why they made certain choices. Plus it’s fun to cheer them on.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I greatly enjoyed your discussion with Karen about her book club. The sense of community and fellowship Karen promotes came through so very clearly. I was uplifted by it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you listened in and for your comments. I am looking forward to following your blog, Michael. Art and books connect a global community.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thank you for the great podcast. A very good idea. For me also to strengthen my listening capabilities. Oh sorry, you can only follow my blog (self hosted, because Germany permitts sending data to the USA ;-)) https://books.eslarn-net.de by bookmarking. I am looking for a solution bringing liking and commenting back, without sending data by Jetpack. Have a nice week! xx Michael

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Kudos, Karen!
    Adore everything you said here today.
    I belonged to a book club, ages ago. It was fun, but I couldn’t stop mural hunting long enough to read much.
    Then there’s the sewing of gowns.
    I’d like to have a street art/murals club…of sorts.
    In a way I suppose my blog is, but I’d like to have several friends visit Toronto at once.
    There would be a lot of walking, because I know where there is art all over the city….from main streets to alleys.
    I believe art makes for good discussions as well as books.
    The fact that you don’t read Margret Atwood makes your club very appealing.
    Has your club read any Joy Fielding? Very curious to know.
    Thanks for this fab podcast, both of you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree wholeheartedly that art is a story in a story in a story. When I read an artist’s bio, there is so much more I see in his/her painting. Vincent’s belief that “whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done” to Edgar Degas’s “art is not what you see, but what you make others see” to Matisse’s “Creativity takes courage” to Banksy’s “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” – these are stories that inspire and move us to explore our creativity.

      Thank you so much for joining the conversation, Resa! I enjoy our discussions.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey everyone, thanks so much for all the positive comments. I so enjoyed my conversation with Rebecca. I feel that I ought to respond to all the queries about Margaret Atwood. When we began the club there were several of us who had either had to read her work at university, or had read some since, and we felt unanimously that we were not interested in being told to read more, even by a friendly crowd like the book club. So we left ourselves free to read anything she has written on our own, we just promise not to select it for everyone.
    Other comments that I really appreciated were those mentioning the wide range of titles we’ve shared over the years – fiction, non-fiction, works by black, white, Latin, Asian and South Asian voices, classics (Jane Austen & Shakespeare), drama, popular fiction, literary fiction, essay, memoir… It means we never get bored, that’s for sure.
    I look forward to another conversation with Rebecca sometime in the future – I can talk about books and reading all the day long!

    Liked by 3 people

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