Geeks and Nerds Stuff

Literarily Wasted Online Book Club Brings ‘Geeky’ Books To The People

Post by Alec Harvey for Alabama NewsCenter

When Christy Schwartz started looking around for a book club that read her favorite genres, she couldn’t find one.

“I’m part of another book club, but we read smart books that are never ever science fiction and fantasy,” she said. “I looked all around for an outlet in Birmingham for this, and there wasn’t anything.”

So she got some friends together – her husband, Adam, and Lucas Pepke and Talia Lin, who are married – and they started their own. And they invited anyone who wanted to join them.

Literarily Wasted, a self-proclaimed “free, online, geek-centric book club,” kicked off a year ago with Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens” and hasn’t looked back. Thirteen books later, their audience has grown from about 20 that first time out to thousands who joined in live or later watched their recent Q&A with Lev Grossman, best-selling author of “The Magicians.”

The quartet of friends didn’t really know what to expect when they launched Literarily Wasted. All have day jobs – Adam and Talia with Red Clay Media, Lucas in marketing for STERIS Animal Health and Christy as a manager at Rocky Heights Print and Binding, her family’s company – with Adam, Talia (and sometimes Lucas) appearing in the popular “It’s a Southern Thing” videos.

Talia and Christy had bonded over books.

“I thought, OK she’s a bookworm like me,” Talia recalled. “Then, oh, no, she is a bookworm in a league I have not yet reached.”

The guys, while not inveterate readers – “I was like, Lucas, you’re going to have to start to read,” Talia said – were on board because, well, they loved the geek aspect.

“We want to do books that aren’t usually represented in traditional bookstores,” Adam said. “We wanted to be a destination for like-minded people that we just hadn’t found.”

They called their new venture Geekward!, and Literarily Wasted came out of it. From the beginning, they’ve partnered with 2nd & Charles, which specializes in secondhand books, CDs, movies and video games.

Adam Schwartz, left, and Lucas Pepke have brought their love of gaming to Literarily Wasted. (courtesy/Literarily Wasted)

The crew picks three potential books each month, and members of the club choose the one that’s read. There are two live discussions about each book – a discussion about the first half of the book on the second Wednesday, a discussion about the whole book on the fourth Wednesday. Since beginning last month with Grossman, Literarily Wasted is hoping to add more live Q&A’s with authors. Each live discussion is also available as a podcast and video on demand.

Along the way, the crew has tried “Gaming the Book,” in which Lucas and Adam brought their love for video games and merged them with the book discussion, and “Cooking the Book,” where recipes from the books were cooked.

“It’s a book club, first and foremost, but we’re also always trying to find ways to do more and innovate,” Adam said.

Literarily Wasted has featured books by best-selling authors, such as Stephen King and Anne Rice, as well as lesser known authors and some in between.

May’s book is “Kill the Farm Boy,” by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, and the first discussion takes place this week. (Like other books of the month, 2nd & Charles offers a 20% discount for the book).

Before coronavirus, the Literarily Wasted discussions were streamed live from 2nd & Charles. The discussions continue from home, streamed on Facebook Live and YouTube Live. There’s also a vibrant community posting on the group’s Facebook page.

“It’s really a respite for people, I think,” Lucas said. “These are nice people. There’s no drama. For so many places that get so many trolls, it’s nice to have a nice community of book-loving geeky people.”

The online aspect appeals to Literarily Wasted’s base, Christy believes.

“The fact that you don’t have to leave your house to be a part of our book club is a huge, huge part of it,” she said. “We have people from everywhere – all over the United States, someone from England, someone from South Africa.”

And that community has grown and become even stronger after the events of the past few months.

“Little did we know that the ability to be in a book club and not leave your home would become so important,” Talia said.

Adam said that, like the couples who started it, Literarily Wasted features a comfortable mix of avid and casual readers.

“Our group is kind of a microcosm of our readers,” he said. “Talia and Christy can read 10 books a day. Lucas and I represent people who don’t read a lot but want to get into it.”

That all adds up to a community of readers that feels like a group of friends, the four said.

“I think we tapped into the geeky, book-loving community,” said Talia. “It turns out they were all on the internet. We’d find one bookworm friend who shared it with their bookworm friends who shared it with their bookworm friends. And we built ourselves a little web.”