Random Thoughts

My experience with a book club

... some people like to talk about books

by Ann Robbins Talbot

There is a special feeling of anticipation in opening a book for the first time. Whether you plan to be entertained or informed, there is a sense of adventure. When you are a member of a book club, you know that several people are sharing your experience and, at some point, you will be discussing the book together.

I am a member of a book club made up of retired teachers who meet monthly. We have enough members to gather at least a dozen women for a discussion, the ideal number according to many experts. This brings together a variety of opinions. Seldom does everyone really like the chosen book. Our record was two in a row --'The Help' and 'Still Alice'. Occasionally we find a book that no one likes and we wonder how we happened to choose it.

Several of our members are avid readers. They even own a Kindle so they can bring several books with them on trips, in waiting rooms, at bedtime. The concept is good, but pricey. I tell myself I still like the feeling of turning paper pages to compensate for not having this new, electronic gadget. There are so many book clubs in our town that the public library is busy getting us multiple copies through the Minuteman Network. At present I am reading 'That Old Cape Magic' loaned by the Robbins Library in Arlington, perhaps named for a distant relative of mine. If our book-of-the-month is in paperback, I often buy it and pass it on to friends who, in turn, will pass it along. I do not usually reread a fiction book.

When I read for a club meeting, I often take a few notes to jog my memory later. I jot down locations and significant dates and I keep track of the characters and their relationships. During our discussion I can refer to my scraps of paper and my friends may think I actually remembered the main character’s second husband’s mother’s name.  

I also belong to a very small book club that meets weekly for breakfast. We began in 1987 in the back room of a local restaurant with twelve members of my church but, because of moving, deaths and/or job commitments, we are down to three hardy souls. We began by reading the Bible which took us three years to complete with many heated discussions along the way. We then ventured into Bible history, medical ethics, ecology – a chapter a week. My favorite authors through the years have been C. S. Lewis, Peter Gomes, Sally McFague and Harold Kushner. We have just completed 'Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World', Rabbi Kushner’s newest and perhaps his best. This group tends to read non-fiction on the serious side, giving me a good balance from the best-seller list choices of the other group.

My mother belonged to a neighborhood book club in Melrose years ago. People did not own too many fiction books at that time and most were in hard cover. Each of twelve members purchased a book in January and read it. Then, according to a schedule taped to the front page of the book, at the beginning of February the book was passed to another member. On the first day of each month, my mother could expect a new book. The only problem with this concept was that you could not have a good discussion because it took a whole year for everyone to have read all the books. But perhaps talking about the books was not the main point.  

The daily newspapers used to serialize books for both adults and children. I remember my parents reading me 'Wind in the Willows' from the Globe. It may have been hot-off-the-press at the time. Reading has always been a great part of my life, being a reading teacher for twenty-five years. I hope I have hooked hundreds of children on the written word, whether it comes on a bound paper page or an electronic screen. Reading has kept me happy for uncountable hours and will continue to do so.

April 2, 2010

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