Farmington native Jean Worthley holds a copy of “Where the Line Bleeds,” which was read by her book club.

Oprah did it. So did Reese Witherspoon, The New York Times and Jean Worthley.

They started online book clubs.

I broke my vow never to join a book club (I like to choose my own reads) when Jean — a friend from high school —reached out on Facebook. I was hungry for social contact and thought at my advanced age it was time to expand my literary focus.

I am not alone.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, book clubs grew in popularity as people were stuck at home, according to Bustle.com.

Bustle quoted The New York Times as reporting “a significant spike” in the #bookstagram content on Instagram.

And according to Forbes.com, a free website called Bookclubz has seen its following increase by 26% since March 1. It has added 2,000 new clubs in one month, for a total of 12,000 clubs with 50,000 members worldwide.

The club I joined is much smaller, fewer than a dozen people, but we all are passionate about reading and sharing our perspectives. Many of us are graduates of Mount Blue High School in Farmington circa 1975-76.

Jean named the club Easy Readers, after the Morgan Freeman character on the PBS show “The Electric Company” (most of us are in our 60s, so we remember it well).

“Easy read everything in sight, including matchbooks, just for the fun of it,” Jean said.

This is her first book club, too.

She started it because a friend’s husband was having major health issues and had to be quarantined to avoid getting COVID.

“She was dreading the isolation she’d be facing through the winter,” Jean said. “We both like to read, so I suggested we start a book club.”

It took.

We are on our fourth book so far this year. “Easy” also denotes the leisurely pace.

We take turns choosing. Jean picked “Winter Sisters” by Tim Westover. Member Daniel Woodward, a classmate of Jean’s, chose “Madame de Treymes” by Edith Wharton. I chose “Where the Line Bleeds” by Jesmyn Ward and Susan Neo, another high school friend, picked “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez. We are reading that now.

Susan agreed to review these books for me:

“’Winter Sisters’ was a light, enjoyable read with insight into early settlement life. It had all the components I find necessary: mystery, romance and humor.”

“Winter Sisters” by Tim Westover Amazon.com

She found the Wharton novel a tougher choice.

“I waded through the prosaic writing and high societal indirectness and felt very let down at the end.”

She described my choice as “a slow, rambling view of black, lower-income Southern experience I would not have otherwise seen. It could help many gain empathy to ‘walk a mile’ in their shoes.”

Susan’s pick, “Daemon” (pronounced demon), is a tech thriller that I would have never chosen on my own. Despite the “mansplaining,” it’s a refreshing change with a fast-moving plot.

“Daemon” by Daniel Suarez Amazon.com

Though she started the club simply to lift the spirits of a friend, Jean has found it a rich experience.

She enjoys sharing ideas, seeing things from other people’s viewpoints and she reads more closely now, she said.

“I enjoy the way the club keeps evolving through member input,” she said. “I am absolutely reading books I would not have chosen for myself. It’s been refreshing to get out of my usual genres. I’ve had the chance to meet a few new people and to get to know old friends in a different way.”

New members are welcome.

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