Reading is something we all learn in school, but it really can expand the world we live in. ELENI PHILIPPOU speaks to a woman about growing the island’s love for books
Book clubs seem to be something out of the past, don’t they? Long gone are the days when groups of bibliophiles would gather to discuss their latest read and it is certainly not a common activity for millennials and Gen Z-ers. Yet a love for books remains. Even in this replaced-by-a-kindle era, old and young still visit bookstores and grab novels off the shelves. On a mission to build a community for those who love reading is the Cyprus Bookworms Club, started by a young woman whose passion for the written word is too big to not be shared.
“Books are magic,” says Marianna, “They have the power to take you on voyages to wherever you want, to other eras and countries. I’m very imaginative and books played a big role for me as I was growing up as they gave me the chance to daydream and imagine a world on my own terms. My grandfather was a poet and has published books with traditional poems written in the Cypriot dialect. For me, this art means that you leave a piece of yourself forever alive. I often find myself returning to my grandfather’s poems to remember him.”
When young, she would visit the local library weekly and even won an award for being the youngest reader in her town to read the most books. Now, a working mum who’s online a lot as a social media manager, books remain the gateway into an imaginary world. Forming a book community has been a life-long dream and it wasn’t until the pandemic lockdowns that this became a reality.
“It started as a simple account during the pandemic since in the ample free time we had, we had to channel our creativity somehow.” Her Cyprus Bookworms Club account on Instagram and Facebook, began as a platform in 2020, sharing book recommendations, giveaways and an insight into the local book world. Going offline though and connecting book lovers was always in the plans. “I really wanted to organise book club meetings as soon as the pandemic was over,” she said. “We grew fearful of each other and I, being an extrovert, couldn’t take it anymore. Call it a personal revolution, if you will!”
All it took was a story on social media announcing the meeting and dozens of book lovers from all regions of Cyprus responded. The first Cyprus Bookworms Club meeting took place by the sea, at Naousa café-bar in Larnaca and 12 people gathered from Larnaca, Nicosia and Limassol. The second meeting at the bookstore and café To Erma in Nicosia had more than 25 attendees from all cities.
“I was so nervous because this idea wasn’t about having as many people as possible but to have enough quality time to talk and listen to each other’s opinions. So, I decided to do something about this; I would do 3 groups in 3 cities.”
Now, the book club meetings happen every one-and-a-half months in each city. At each meeting – which is free to attend – each person brings a book they love, either in Greek or English, and reads an extract explaining why they like the book.
To love reading and be respectful of all the bibliophiles attending are the two prerequisites to attend yet the aim of the book club is not just to bring bookworms together but to cultivate a wider book culture. At each meeting, Marianna makes a suggestion to the group. In the last gathering, she challenged the group to visit a library in their town by the next time they met as she noticed that although many read, few had visited a local library.
The upcoming meeting returns to Nicosia and will take place at Acropolis Park on Friday. The group will gather at 6pm on a blanket on the grass where they will spend some time reading before heading to the park’s café-restaurant for their usual meeting to talk and share until 9pm. Cyprus Bookworms Club’s meetings are open to all as the community hopes to grow and build book-inspired connections. People wanting to join Friday’s event should send Marianna a message (99-126420).
Cyprus Bookworms Club’s sister brand, Vintage Ride Cyprus, another venture by Marianna, is also book-themed right now. “For this year, the blue minivan has turned into a travelling charity bookshop for anyone wanting to support with a donation. All of the donations collected this year will go to Majestic Therapy, an animal therapy programme for children in special schools. How are we as Cyprus Bookworms Club involved? We collect books from all over Cyprus for this purpose so if someone wants to donate books they don’t need, they can send me a message on social media for more details.” A community of (young-ish) book lovers is in the making and Marianna concludes that “it has only just begun. The best is yet to come!”
Cyprus Bookworms Club Meet-Up
Book club meeting by the Cyprus Bookworms Club. May 26. Acropolis Park, Nicosia. 6pm-9pm. Free. Tel: 99-126420. For more information, visit the Facebook page Cyprus Bookworms Club or the Instagram account @cybookworms.