Soldiers, a military spouse and cadre participate in a virtual book club offered by the Schofield Barracks Soldier Recovery Unit, Hawaii, on January 13, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Carol Hickman)
Soldiers, a military spouse and cadre participate in a virtual book club offered by the Schofield Barracks Soldier Recovery Unit, Hawaii, on January 13, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Carol Hickman) (Photo Credit: Christine Aurigema) VIEW ORIGINAL

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Schofield Barracks Soldier Recovery Unit, Hawaii, launched a new club that has Soldiers talking — about books.

The virtual book club brings people together safely each week and lets them connect, hold discussions, practice critical thinking and voice opinions, said Adaptive Reconditioning Support Specialist Carol Hickman.

The first meeting took place last September. Each week, they read and discuss approximately two chapters from their chosen title, Hickman said. When they finish a book, they consider suggestions from the entire SRU for their next one, said Maj. Blake Botill, who participates in the book club.

Botill was surprised by the wide variety of titles they wanted to read. So far, they have selected two books: one is about personal growth and the other is about American history. Both are bestsellers that were first published decades ago. The latter is Botill’s favorite.

“It's really important to highlight our deficiencies in history or government or civics and what can be done to make U.S. history more interesting and accurate,” Botill said.

Reading is only one part of book club; participants also meet for virtual discussions. Hickman said that everyone in the group has something to contribute, which makes it easy to have good weekly discussions. She said that it's great to see participants become engrossed in the topic and that she personally has learned a great deal through attending the meetings.

Recreation Therapist Jana Dunn said that during one meeting, participants talked about how enticing it can be to think about a time in the past or the future when the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t having such a significant impact on them. She said that an idea was shared that they could infuse their lives with strategies from the personal growth book they were reading to experience peace no matter the circumstances.

“I like the in-depth discussions and back and forth we get in this book club,” Botill said. “We learn something from each other every week, that I didn't pick up on while reading the book on my own.”

Book Club participants keep the conversation going and it can make time fly. Botill said that there is so much to say during the discussions that keeping them to an hour can be challenging. Nonetheless, he likes having them on his calendar.

“I like the socialization as well during these times of increased isolation, this is always something I look forward to,” he said.

Botill said that it’s also been challenging to get more book club participants. Hickman hopes that more people will get involved when they start their next book. She said it’s very encouraging when Soldiers discover an activity they would continue apart from the SRU.

“By helping them find leisure skills we are empowering them to seek out community, find a sense of purpose outside of the military and find something [to] look forward to,” Hickman said.