Over the years I’ve been invited to join several book clubs by my wonderful friends. Full disclosure, I’ve never joined one. It seemed like too much pressure for me  to complete a book within a certain timeframe. I love books. I mean, you should see the tower next to my bed and that’s in addition to the ones I’ve downloaded on my Kobo and my iPhone. Okay, also the audiobooks I listen to while walking the dog. Of course while I’m away, I can happily sink into a good read without distraction and a rum punch in hand. So, back to book clubs? Yeah, the traditional one is not for me. But a couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a group called BooknBrunch – it may have been a Facebook pop up that lured me in.  At a glance, it seemed pretty interesting. A list of book discussions was on the site including dates/times and who was hosting. No commitment to be present at every one of the meets. So, I thought  “Why not?” I mean, here we all are in a pandemic and we are home anyway.

I discovered an interesting book event that was focused on the classic story, Rebecca — part love tale, part haunting. A film remake was also landing on Netflix. I’ve always loved to see how books translated into films. There was no cost to join this group other than to download the book – which turned out to be offered in a deal of less that $5.00 on Kobo at the time. So, I registered and got reading. I also watched the movie remake just ahead of the discussion.

The book club event was conducted on Zoom and about 12 people participated. They checked in from all over North America and a wide range of ages. Some showed their faces in the meeting and some did not. No big deal. The host, Daniela (who’s also one of the co-founders) made things easy and lead the conversation. I had the sense that it was all about the flow of the group. I admit that I was super shy about joining in. This was totally out of my comfort zone and to be honest I was a bit intimidated but that feeling quickly dissipated thanks to the easy vibe of the group. I showed my face. I participated. I loved hearing such a range of perspectives and opinions about the book, the characters, and the author. We discussed how we liked, or didn’t like, the characters and how they were portrayed in the Netflix adaptation. But what I really loved was that I knew no one in the group and I could just slide into the conversation just like anyone else would.

This was it. I found my jam.

I secretly wanted to keep this discovery to myself but when I had mentioned it to a few friends we all agreed it was the perfect time to share what this group was all about. So, I reached out to cofounders Daniela Kelloway and Zuzana Drakul.

The concept of BooknBrunch began when Zuzana was going through depression and found healing in the ritual of reading, meeting and eating. She had started the group as a way of getting out, to find more connections, while discovering new local restaurants at a time when life seemed bleak.

It was a simple concept that quickly grew beyond expectations. Waitlists began and it became clear that the experiences were both transformational and incredibly powerful for many. Together with Daniela, they decided to take it to the next level. “We felt compelled to build a platform that would allow anyone to organize host and attend book and food experiences,” said Daniela. “We are a community that encourages discovery, ritual, connection and a sprinkle of surprise and delight, because we all need a bit more of that in our lives. We create a safe space for sharing, we facilitate intergenerational connection, networking, support and meaningful conversations.”

Daniela Kelloway and Zuzana Drakul (Photo credit: Sarjoun Faour)

Hosting the experiences came naturally to both women. Zuzana is a 20 year sales veteran of the corporate world. She tells us she’s always played the role of concierge for family and friends, recommending restaurants and travel destinations. BooknBrunch was an extension of providing these recommendations to the world. She also recently became a new mom.

Daniela Kelloway is a Public Relations consultant, writer, yogi and meditation teacher. Mom of three and voracious reader, Daniela loves people and stories.

Fun fact…they are actually sisters!

Of course COVID19 changed how BooknBrunch would meet. In-person meet ups at restaurants and cafes were temporarily halted and they transitioned to online. “When COVID hit, two things happened to us,” said Daniela. “We now offer virtual experiences and we also are offering more experiences in the  Wellness category.”

What’s really interesting about BooknBrunch, and what makes them stand out is the range of experiences offered.”The idea is to help people connect over shared interests around books, food and wellness,” said Daniela. Today, they have members from over 40 cities globally.

A favourite, they tell us, was an event they did with Top Chef Jo Notkin where all participants were sent her world famous Jewel Brownie in the mail. The chef also talked the group through a favourite recipe with the book Ruth Reichl’s “136 Recipes that Saved My Life.”

Another favourite, and transformational experience, was the 3-day Learn to Meditate course.

They also hosted an event for entrepreneurs and freelancers called “Do It – a Business BooknBrunch” which included access to one of Canada’s top CEO’s Joanna Griffiths of Knix fame. Daniela and Zuzana mentioned, “We also discussed Phil Knight’s book “Shoe Dog” and masterminded around everyone’s individual business challenges. It was an incredible group!”

One of BooknBrunch hosts Tracey created a cool experience around the novel, The Chocolatier where participants got a virutal tour of the Amalfi Coast (the setting of the novel) with a chocolate tasting kit delivered to each person, the day of the event.

And yes, any member can host a BooknBrunch! Daniela and Zuzana says all one has to do is choose a book and build an event around it. “We support all of our hosts in very special ways and help ensure the event is a success! It’s simple to become a host and you’ll automatically be able to join our private Slack channel for host support and connection.”

They’ve also partnered with a few as well. “We partnered with Kobo Rakuten on an epic vision boarding event where participants were able to create a vision board from scratch and discuss the book “Think and Grow Rich”. We collaborated with Jessie from Atma Things who provided a “Think and Grow Rich” Tarot Card reading to each member to help them set their 2021 vison board intentions. With the help of Sam and Lance, we created a special VIP manifestation and self-care box. One lucky Brookie (what we call our community members) walked away with a brand new Kobo Nia eReader.”

And as mentioned, the event that launched me into this group turned out to be a partnership with Netflix on the release of their film Rebecca (adapted from the classic novel by Daphne du Maurier. We discussed the book to film adaptation with participants from across North America.

So, what’s in store for 2021?

They tell us that they will be relaunching their 3-day Learn to Meditate course as mental health and well-being are more crucial. They also have a few cannabis experiences in the works and, of course, more food collaborations coming up. They are excited to continue to partner up with like-minded brands and offer unique and meaningful virtual events for their community.

What about membership?

Membership is currently free. Free to join and many of our events are also free.
Each event or experience is as unique as the host who leads the event.
Events are public or private, ticketed or free. They usually include a book component but don’t have to.

There is no restriction on the number of participants in each experience. Every host sets this limit themselves. Events can be intimate with 8 people or larger with 50+ people. The average BooknBrunch experience has 15 “Brookies”.

Interested in joining or learning more? Visit their site www.booknbrunch.com