For me, there’s a sneaky kind of power that comes from sitting in a room full of brilliant women, all working in different industries, all interested in talking about the tough things we still face in our world.
I’d been living in Boston for three years when I finally decided to start a book club with a few friends. I’ve always loved to read, but after grad school ended I struggled to find the time I needed to read for fun. A book club, I thought, would help. Plus, it would be an excuse to hang out with my female friends, cook good food, and drink a lot of wine.
Two years later, that book club has grown to a group of nine women. We are journalists, scientists, engineers, lawyers, and government employees. Some are married, some are single. Throughout the time we’ve known each other, we’ve seen each other plan weddings, get pregnant, graduate from PhD programs and masters programs, get married, quit jobs, take new ones, and travel to countries all over the world. Each month, a different woman chooses a book. We all have different tastes, so we’ve read fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and essay collections. Without trying, we’ve mostly read books by female authors. We talk about race, careers, feminism, dating, politics, and so much more for 4 hours each time we meet. And we eat and drink — a lot.
As many of you know, I’m leaving Boston to move to Seattle in July, and one of my greatest sadnesses will be leaving my book club. The women in this group have helped me see that in this world, women still face gender bias every day, in every industry. As a woman, I still have to choose between being a mother or a career woman because having it all is often too much to bear. But with the force of these other driven women beside me, defining my goals and priorities feels easier than it would alone.
I hope you’re all lucky enough to have that kind of support at some point in your lives. If not, here are some books that might give you a little taste of what we’ve been talking about in book club over the past 3 years. Out of the 30+ books we’ve read, these were our favorites:
Party Trick Cheese Dip
Or “Book club’s favorite cheese dip”
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit. Serves 8, generally gone in 5 minutes or less.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- Kosher salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 4 ounces sharp white cheddar, shredded (about 1 cup)
- 2 ounces Monterey Jack, shredded (about ½ cup)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- Tortilla chips, pita chips or toasted baguette slices for serving
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F, then saute the onions in oil, stirring occasionally until golden brown and softened (this will likely take 8–10 minutes). Season with salt.
Meanwhile, pulse the cream cheese and mayonnaise in a food processor until smooth, or whisk it up in a bowl if you don’t have a food processor. Softening the cream cheese beforehand will make this a lot easier (you can cheat and put it in the microwave for 20 seconds if needed).
Next, toss the cornstarch, ¾ cup cheddar cheese, and ¼ cup Monterey Jack cheese in a medium bowl. Then mix in the cream cheese, mayo and cooked onion, too, seasoning the whole thing again with salt and pepper. Scrape the mixture into a 1-qt. baking dish and top it with your remaining cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. Finally, bake the dip until its golden and bubbling, for about 25 minutes. Let the dip cool for 5 minutes, then top it with chives and serve it with chips or bread.
**If you’re making this for a crowd, double the recipe. I made it for my book club last month and the 8 of us finished it in 5 minutes flat. On New Year’s Eve, only the first people to arrive at the party got to taste the dip because it disappeared so quickly. Plan accordingly.