Male 'book and beverage' group hits the spot

Peter Swan's all-male book club might seem to encourage stereotypical 'bloke' behaviour but at closer inspection his 'Beverage and Books' group does anything but.

The former civil-structural engineer is part of a 10-man book discussion group that meets monthly on a Tuesday afternoon to talk about that month's book selection. Members are in the 'early and active stages' of retirement.

"The way we've set it up is you read the book and if you're the host for that month you have to come up with a hosting drink," says Peter, who lives on the North Shore of Auckland.

"So while you're reading, you're very much keeping in mind an appropriate connection between the content of the book and picking out something from the book that might go down as a little 'theme' for our monthly gathering," he says.

As an example, Peter says a vodka based drink was too obvious a choice when he hosted the group after reading about the Russian army fighting the French during Napoleonic times. Instead, he made the Eastern European drink kvass out of stale bread and baked some dry biscuits, which related to the diet of the hungry soldiers depicted in the book.

"There's always a scene in every book where someone's eating something," he says.

The BDS book group has been meeting for more than 3 years. Five of the original seven members of Peter's group are friends. The remaining three men joined later and have connections with other members. At their meetings, the group allocates an hour for discussion of the book; that part is quite formal and involves everyone giving their opinion and grading the book out of 10. In precise engineering fashion, books are graded to in one decimal point, such as 7.2 out of 10.

"The discussion then branches off onto related subjects – or unrelated subjects – depending on the book!" says Peter. "I guess it's a good judge of what we think of a book if discussion about it continues on."

When Peter first retired, he tried out a couple of mixed reading groups but decided to do something 'a little bit different' to get guys interested and that's when the beverage idea came up. He enjoys golf, singing and other pursuits but the book group is his favourite activity and says the beverage aspect is an ice-breaker that the men can relate to.


In retirement, Peter Swan's 'Book and Beverage' book club is his favourite activity. Here's Peter (back row at right) with some of the members of his book group.  (Photo credit: Peter Swan)

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Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
BDS is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations