a simple idea, a friend and books

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For some time now, a friend of mine has wanted to get to know more people in the community where she lives. Like many people  she commutes to outside of her community to work. Her children are grown so she doesn’t have “the school connection” to her community. I have lived in my community for 28 years but because I always worked outside of my community and my children didn’t attend school in my local community I too felt the desire/ need to be better connected in my community.  We both enjoy reading and discussing books so we decided to start a book club. To give credit where, where credit is due my friend was the originator of the library book club idea.

Last December, we met with one of the librarians at the local public library. We told them our idea to start a book club. The librarian wanted to know “who would be welcome to attend?”. We said “whoever wanted to”. Since it would be open to all the library would reserve one of their rooms for us at no charge, they would mention the book club in their newsletter and they would secure copies of the book we wanted to read. Sounds simple – we were actually a little surprised at how easy it seemed to be. Then there was a little bump in the road. The first book we wanted to read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese wasn’t readily available so the library asked us to pick another book from a very extensive list of books. Oh my!! Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. We looked over the list and decided on Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.  Our thought being with the popularity of The Help it would be interesting to read a book written by a female African-American writer. As the first Tuesday in February approached we decided that the worst that could happen would be no one except the two of us would show up and if that happened we would just discuss the book between ourselves and call it a day. Well, 3 other people came and a lively discussion ensued.

Since then we have met the first Tuesday of each month. I have read some books that I would never have chosen to read if they weren’t the “book club” book.  As one of the other book club members commented “it is good to read a book that may have been required reading in school but  now you  can read it and don’t have to write a paper or take an exam.” I have been privy to the great conversations. I have met some new people and I look forward to seeing them on the first Tuesday of the month. The interesting thing is we don’t actually know very much about each other. We know each other’s name and maybe one or two random facts – retired or working, has children or not. I guess what we don’t know is each other’s stories. I like learning other’s people’s stories. But to be honest there is something to be said for just being people who read the same book and get together to discuss it. It is simple, it isn’t messy and it is very enjoyable. Sometimes you need that.

In case you are interested, we have read and discussed the following books. It is an open discussion. Sometimes we have discussion questions, sometimes one of the book club members just starts talking about the book. The book for the next month is suggested by a member of the group and the only “rule” is if you suggest a book, you have to show up to discuss it.  Only once did someone break the rule! We average about 7 people on the first Tuesday of the month and if everyone came who has ever come we would be 20 people.

February – Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston    1937

March – The History of Love by Nicole Kraus 2005

April – To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf  1927

May – The Awakening by Kate Chopin 1899

June – Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson 1980

July – The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway 2008

August – Eugene Grandet by Honore de Balzac 1833

and I am just finishing  Washington Square by Henry James 1880 to be discussed in September.

Random comment – After the discussion about To the Lighthouse, I realized that the people who knew a lot about the author’s personal life seemed to view the book in a different way that those of us who didn’t. Thought that was interesting 🙂

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