An Evening with the Book Group: Connecting Online Via Zoom

Mark Frizzell in Zoom
Mark Frizzell led Monday night's meeting in Zoom.

The UU Saratoga Book Group typically draws a gathering of ten to 15 for its discussions on the the third Monday of the month. The turnout this month was just eight, but that’s pretty good  considering we were meeting in a new medium – the Zoom conferencing tool that the congregation is now using to host meetings in face of the Covid-19 epidemic. 

With 20 years of professional telecommuting experience, Mark Frizzell was well-equipped to host the discussion. He’s an old hand with such online spaces as Zoom, WebEx, and GotoMeeting, all of which do essentially the same thing: create interactive rooms in cyberspace. 

Ordinarily, the Book Group meets in the King Room at our Meeting House with a light potluck dinner. At this session, participants sipped wine at their screens at home. 

All went smoothly. Six members logged in via computer and thus could be seen in video. Two joined by phone and were therefore audio-only. Arliss Nygard and Murray Penney tried to join from Florida but discovered their Internet connection was too weak to support it. 

As we hunker down for weeks or even months in isolation until the pandemic runs its course, UU Saratoga members are likely to find gatherings like this an increasingly valuable way to socially connect. Members insist they’re a book group, not a book club

“Clubs are clubby and exclusive,” says Judy Halstead. “Groups are open and welcoming. So far as we’re concerned, you don’t even have to read the book. Just join us.”

The focus of Monday night’s Book Club discussion was The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson. The lineup through August: 

  • April: The Overstory (fiction)
  • May: Blowout (non-fiction)
  • June: Olive Again (fiction)
  • July: Reading Lolita in Tehran (non-fiction)
  • August: Sold on a Monday (fiction) 

Sitting at remote computers creates a different dynamic than sitting around the same table, but participants still found the meeting rewarding.  There was a bit more focus on the book and the discussion was a bit more balanced among the participants, all agreed. And it was good in these uncertain and frightening times to just be together. 

Dan Forbush