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Reader’s Reflect: The Benefits of Starting a Book Club Reach Beyond Just Reading

May 9, 2013

“Readers Reflect,” is a post by a guest blogger reflecting on a formative book, character, or reading experience that has been particularly meaningful in their life as a reader. To submit your own “Readers Reflect” essay, please contact us at courtskids@gmail.com. 

Today we are honored to have a very close friend of the family write for us: Jan, grew up on a chile and cotton farm in southeast New Mexico. She attended Texas Tech University and New Mexico State and taught English as a Second Language and Spanish for 25 years.

My name is Jan and I am a reader! I belong to a Book Club.  I organized the Club as a wedding present to a college friend of mine who moved to our fine city of El Paso, Texas, after (accidentally) meeting a future husband in my kitchen while she was visiting  me from Washington, DC!  She said the thing she was saddest about leaving in DC was her Book Club, and from there we went.

First of all, let me say that I am the Boss, (or as I prefer, Queen) of this Club, The First Monday Book Club, hence to be known as FMBC.    I decided right away that having a format wherein the members choose the books would not do, mainly because of horror stories I had been told long ago about another book club, and so, along with the fun (and chore) of  choosing the books, I would bear the responsibility of choosing books that maybe not everyone would love. Lucky for me, my Book Club likes this arrangement.  I also organize the schedule, and send out the book information in a timely manner each year for the following Year’s books.

When I select our books for the year, I try to pick a variety that will be edifying, interesting, memorable, and fit into a rather loose set of criteria that I decided upon years ago.

  • 4 or 5 fiction books
  • 1 or 2 of those are being read widely currently

1 book by a first-time author

  • 2 non-fiction books (usually a memoir or history of an event, sometimes a travel memoir)
  • A book of short stories or possibly poetry
  • A book that a man would enjoy reading (and a woman would probably not select)
  • A book about a culture specifically not in the United States or known to our members
  • A book about the Southwest or written by a local author
  • Sometimes a classic children’s or young adult book
  • No Oprah or other blatantly media-driven books
  • No relationship, medical, or self-help books
  • And I try to be careful to select books that will not be painful to any member due to a recent sad event or personal situation

Members of FMBC, in the beginning, were just women that had expressed an interest, and a member had invited them to come; however, over the past few years we have had to limit our membership to 18 due to the restrictions of our capability to feed and seat only so many in our homes. We read the book and go to the meeting and have a discussion.  Sometimes we will have a list of suggested discussion questions to guide us, but here are no “papers” presented about the book; nobody is required to give a report.  It is nice that we have a former high school English teacher and a former professional editor to contribute to the discussion. However, if you are just too busy to read the book, or started and didn’t finish the book, come anyway!  One is not required to read the book in order to attend the meeting.

Together we have lived through divorces, sickness, suicide, grief, and family members afflicted, or addicted, or running for national office.  (No, not the same ones!)   In 16 years of FMBC, we have had two members die.  We have celebrated new relationships, family weddings, babies and grandbabies born, retiring, getting new jobs, new homes, moving away and moving back.  Our ages range between 45 and 70-something and we represent a pretty wide diversity of incomes and political viewpoints.  Many of us did not know the others before FMBC.

The one thing that I haven’t done that I should’ve is to keep a running list of all the books that we have read.  That list would have 128 book titles on it!

Here are the books we read this past year.

 Swamplandia by Karen Russell

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje

The Lost German Slave Girl by John Barley

97 Orchard by Jane Zeigelman

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

The Call by Yannick Murphy

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White

A Bunch of Amateurs by Jack Hill

Belonging to a Book Club is a wonderful way of expanding your mind, making new friends, and getting to know others in a completely new way.  If you don’t belong to a Book Club, start one!  It’s easy, just invite a few friends over, talk it out, and have each one bring another friend to the first meeting.  You might even make yourself the Queen!

 

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