You might think that with all our entertainment options, the old-fashioned book club -- where people sit in a room together and discuss a literary work -- is dead.
It is ALIVE!
Tonight, at Remedy in Lawrenceville, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh presents a discussion of "World War Z," the post-apocalyptic zombie story by Max Brooks.
Andrew Carnegie must be rolling over in his grave.
The gathering is part of Book Buzz, the library's new outreach effort, which started in July.
"The goal of Book Buzz is to take a traditional library service -- the book discussion -- and reconfigure it so that it appeals to younger adults, who may not be as connected with the library as they were as children," said Karen Brooks, the library's Lawrenceville branch manager and one of the organizers of Book Buzz.
"We are taking the traditional format, but we're using different types of books. There are no Oprah Book Club picks in Book Buzz. We're trying to do edgier nonfiction. Science fiction, graphic novels, a chef's memoir. And then we're taking those nontraditional books and meeting in nontraditional places.
"The name Book Buzz kind of reflects the fact that we are meeting in places that serve coffee or places that serve alcohol."
The bizarro bibliophiles meet the third Monday of each month, but they plan to expand to the third Tuesdays also, if their success continues.
"Our first discussion was really well attended," Ms. Brooks said. "The second one was fairly well attended. I think the format of the book -- a graphic novel, which is not as accessible to everybody -- resulted in fewer people attending. I have high hopes for tonight."
But why? Who wants to sit around and talk about zombies?
"Pittsburgh has a long zombie heritage, and it's exactly the kind of book that we wanted to pick," said Ms. Brooks, who is no relation to the author (but wishes she were). "It's a title people recognize; a lot of people have already read it. But it's not a subject that would be your typical book discussion pick.
"I personally have a strong affection for zombie books, so I wanted to make sure we had one zombie book in the mix. And this book is highly regarded in the zombie canon."
"World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War," published in 2006, is Mr. Brooks' monstrously successful follow-up to his 2003 book, "The Zombie Survival Guide."
"One of the reasons we picked this one is because it's really well known in the realm of zombie literature," Ms. Brooks said. "There's a lot of zombie books out there, especially right now, with the popularity of 'The Walking Dead.' Zombies are a big deal.
"It's basically a collection of accounts, interviews by a fictional journalist who is trying to create a comprehensive record of events that led to the Zombie War. According to the book, the Zombie War started in China. That's where Patient Zero was, and it basically took over the world.
"We know at the beginning of the book that humanity won, so that's not a spoiler. But where it gets interesting is all the different accounts of regular citizens, government officials, military personnel all over the world, and the experiences they have all had trying to secure the world against the zombie outbreak. It's fantastic."
You probably thought that vampires were the ubercool thing. Ha! Put a fork in them. Nowadays, it's all zombies. The book is such a hit, some guy named Brad Pitt bought the rights to it and is making a movie about it starring himself.
"Vampires and zombies come from a similar place," Ms. Brooks said. "The interest in reading about the supernatural, humanity conquering it or not. The interest in the unknown.
"But vampire literature kind of took a turn toward the sparkly, romantic vampires. Fifty years ago, vampires were scary things. Now, not so much. But zombies are still scary things. The idea of people that you know and love suddenly becoming completely foreign that you have to fight, that you have to kill, and not having an option -- that is what makes them so scary. Zombies were people and suddenly they're not anymore."
The gathering on the second floor of Remedy, at 5121 Butler St., begins at 7 p.m. It's free and open to the public, though it would be nice if you bought something. The bar also serves great food -- but doesn't a discussion of flesh-eating zombies getting their brains blown out kind of mute the appetite?
So is it just for fun? Or can you learn something?
"I'm not reading a zombie book to learn great life lessons," Ms. Brooks said. "But a lot of the better zombie literature gives us an insight into humanity, into society, into the way we live our lives and where the world could go if something were to happen.
"'World War Z' is an oral history. It follows the same format as a lot of oral histories of other wars. Which people write and learn from. A lot of the different characters in this book and the way they deal with what's going on around them can be illuminating about people and the way the world rises up around us.
"Just like any other book, a well-done zombie book can teach us something. But then there's a lot that's just fluff."
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe: http://press.post-gazette.com/ Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org