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S.O.U.L. is UNC's not-so-secret book club

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UNC Student Organization for Undergraduate Literature, S.O.U.L., meets in Greenlaw Hall on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. S.O.U.L.’s theme of the night is poetry. Members gather around in a circle and share their favorite poems and poets.

Twice a month on Wednesday evenings, a group of students meet in Greenlaw Hall to have pizza and discuss their shared interest in books and literature. This group is called the Student Organization for Undergraduate Literature — also known as S.O.U.L.

S.O.U.L. is described as a non-traditional book club by Ella Terry, a UNC sophomore and secretary of the club. Students are not expected to read a specific book and discuss it. Instead, each meeting has a specific theme, and the club discusses that topic in small groups.

However, the conversations are open-ended and can lead to topics completely unrelated to the theme. Oftentimes, members find themselves talking about the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson book series.

“I don’t think my passion for reading is deeper than the other person, but it’s just something I do a lot and I like to talk about,” Terry said. “And some of my friends don’t really like to hear me talk about books, so it’s nice to have a space where I can talk about books, and I think a lot of other people feel like that, too.”

Georgia Chapman, a UNC junior and president of the club, said she appreciates the opportunity to discuss something she enjoys with like-minded people.

"It's been a good way to spend every other Wednesday night for me," she said. 

At the group's most recent meeting last Wednesday, which focused on classics, members began the conversation with what criteria books have to meet to be considered a classic and what their favorite classic novels are. The discussion then deviated to what impact classics have made on literature and the learning curriculum in educational institutes. 

“I think it is so important to have conversations surrounding how books are made and the authors and their intentions because any sort of media, including literature, has so much power, especially on young minds,” Annabelle Oberst, a sophomore and member of S.O.U.L., said.

S.O.U.L. held its biggest event of the semester in February for Valentine's Day, which included a romance-themed discussion, a “blind date with a book” activity and themed treats. Club members donated romance books, which executive members then wrapped and wrote descriptions on the front, Chapman said. At the end of the meeting, club members could choose which book they wanted to take home. 

"That was definitely a lot of our favorite event," Chapman said. 

The club also hopes to advance discussions related to social issues, she said. In February, it held a meeting centered around Black authors in honor of Black History Month. 

Last semester, club members wanted to address inequality related to literacy and access to books, so they partnered with the Prison Books Collective, an organization that sends free books to incarcerated people in North Carolina and Alabama.

The organization held a character costume contest during one of its meetings, where club members were encouraged to dress as a book character and bring in books to donate. This stimulated the conversation about access to books, especially in the prison system.

In addition to these initiatives, Terry said the club is also working on setting up a lending library on campus.

The club's last meeting this semester will be held in early April and revolve around Earth Day. Chapman said the meeting will be held outside, and the group has special activities planned. 

Overall, the club gives students who enjoy reading an outlet that outside of school and traditional classes, she said. 

“I think people like to prioritize enjoyable reading for our club just because, again, we're doing so much reading for school,” Chapman said. “So, it's fun to come in and be able to discuss things that you might not be discussing for school.”

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