Astana reads: local book clubs get on same page

ASTANA – Amidst the hustle and bustle of the capital, some residents are setting aside time to read books and discuss them in small communities.

Polka Samorazvitiya club member.

Polka Samorazvitiya club member.

Founded in 2011, Astana Book Club allows book lovers to gather, read and talk about the same work. Club members have an opportunity to express their views and share their impressions in a cozy environment.

“Initially, I set up the club to motivate myself to read more. At that time, I received my master’s degree and was working in one company in Astana and realised that I was not reading at all. Then, I started looking for fellow readers. I recall there were only four of us during our first meeting in October 2011. We read ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill in English,” said founder Aizhan Kimanova.

Later, club members began reading books in Kazakh and Russian. They selected titles in different genres, such as classics, biographies of prominent personalities and business literature.

“Now the club limits itself to classical literature, since people read business literature and books on personal development on their own. We occasionally recommend such books to each other, but discuss only classical literature in detail,” she added.

The community, which meets the first Saturday of the month, has held 73 meetings in seven years. Members discuss the books in Russian, then collectively pick a title for the next meeting.

Astana Book Club.

Astana Book Club.

“Information about our club is available on Facebook and @astanabookclub Instagram account. We post a notification five days prior to the meeting and announce a book for the next month after we choose it,” said Kimanova.

Astana Book Club has expanded beyond simply reading and discussing books. The group has also organised six writing marathons, during which individuals try to compose a 50,000-word work in a month. Kimanova has written a book on finding a mission in life and helps the winners publish their works.

Polka Samorazvitiya (Personal Development Shelf), a similar reading community, was established by university student Aigerim Kagarmanova in November 2017.

Polka Samorazvitiya reading club.

Polka Samorazvitiya reading club.

“I was looking for a reading community to join; however, I was not interested in books other clubs were reading. Therefore, I decided to create a club by myself to focus on books motivating us to develop personally,” she said.

Like Astana Book Club, the community gathers once a month in coffee shops and everyone is free to join the discussion. Its distinctive feature, however, is its women-only status.

“So far, we have read and discussed popular motivational books including ‘Miracle Morning,’ ‘The Defining Decade’ and ‘The Happiness Project.’ We have a chat in Telegram with more than 100 contacts; however, often meetings are attended by 10-12 people,” she added.

The community is continuing to meet on a regular basis and information is available on Kagarmanova’s personal Instagram account @kagarmasha.

At one meeting, the members came up with the idea of collecting books for school students in auyls (villages) near the capital.

“While teaching English as a volunteer in an auyl last summer, I realised that education in rural areas is worse than in the city. Students in the city have access to master classes and meetings, whereas in auyls students have a limited choice of opportunities, only materials available on the Internet. It is hard for the latter to find people who will motivate them, but books might replace such a company,” said Kagarmanova.

To date, the women have collected 50 personal development books, English language textbooks and exam preparation sets which they delivered to a school in the countryside. They aim to gather 500 books for ten rural schools this year. More information about their social project is available on the Instagram page @books_to_auls.