Take a page from their bookPeople slowly trickled into the Red Wing library basement on a Tuesday night, many toting books and papers. As they began to talk, laughter echoed from the room.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
People slowly trickled into the Red Wing library basement on a Tuesday night, many toting books and papers. As they began to talk, laughter echoed from the room.
During the second Tuesday of each month, the group comes together to talk about books. But it’s more than that. This particular Tuesday, the Friends of the Library book club members were discussing “The Walk” by Richard Paul Evans. As they discussed what they liked and didn’t about the novel, they also connected the story with their own lives.
The women vary in age and backgrounds, but all come together to share their love of reading and discussion.
“And we like each other,” member Lois Burnes added.
Burnes has participated in a number of book clubs, but has consistently attended the library’s for 12 years.
“I just can’t leave this one,” she said.
A Friends of the Library book club started about two decades ago. At this most recent meeting, members shared a variety of reasons for why they joined. But they centered on a love of reading and good conversation, meeting people and reading books they likely wouldn’t have chosen on their own.
“It’s fun to spend time with smart women,” said Judy Rausch, who also was one of the founding members. The group isn’t exclusive to women, but they haven’t been able to get men to come to more than a few meetings, they said.
The Friends of the Library book club also often meets with authors of the books they are reading, which they said is a fascinating experience.
“I always thought, ‘I wish we could be like Oprah’s book club where they have lunch with the authors,’” Rausch said. “Then I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Starting your own book club
The Friends of the Library book club meets the second Tuesday every month, and the Red Wing Area Seniors also has a reading group.
But if you can’t make it to those meetings, or just want to start a club of your own, here are some tips to get started.
• Decide roughly how many members you want in your group — too many could make it difficult to allow people to talk or connect, but have too few and discussion could suffer.
Then find ways to recruit people. Ask friends, post online or leave information at the library.
• Talk with members about a regular time to meet, probably not more than once a month. Also decide where you want to gather – you could rotate hosts or meet somewhere central. Just keep in mind the size of your group and how easy it will be to carry on a discussion.
• Figure out how you will choose books to read. You can rotate the choice, vote at each meeting, follow a list you find from somewhere else, or come up with your own method.
Make sure everyone can participate while also stretching out of your comfort zones.
• Decide what you want to discuss after reading. Many books have discussion questions included. Otherwise, a number of discussion guides are available online, on the publishers’ websites or through other resources such as readinggroupguides.com.
Book club suggestions
Book clubs can tackle anything, from biographies to novels to nonfiction. But here are some commonly suggested book club selections to get started.
• “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. A true story about an African-America woman whose cells, which were taken without her knowledge, were key in medical research.
• “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. Set in Mississippi during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, an aspiring writer decides to talk with African-American maids and write about their points of view on white families and their work.
• “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay. A journalist in France is writing about the Jewish roundups in 1942. She comes across the story of a 10-year-old girl Sarah who was arrested then and who has a connection to her.
• “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. The story of a boy who grows up in Afghanistan during violent and important events in the country’s history. A story both about the country itself and the boy’s relationship with the son of his father’s servant.
• “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” by Dai Sijie. Two young city boys are sent to a remote village during China’s Cultural Revolution.
• “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. A novel told from the perspective of a Harvard professor struggling with her experiences as she progresses through Alzheimer’s disease.
• “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. A young boy traveling from India to North America with his parents — and a hoard of animals — is the only survivor of a shipwreck. He is left alone on the sea in a lifeboat with a zebra, orangutan, hyena and Bengal tiger.
• “Cleopatra” by Stacy Schiff. A biography about one of the most powerful women in history whose life still is shrouded in mystery.
• “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett. During a birthday party for South America’s vice president, a group of terrorists break in and hold the partygoers hostage. But the hostages and terrorists start to forge unexpected bonds.
• “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. A true story about the author and her siblings’ experiences living with nonconformist parents.
Need more ideas? You can check out these books about book clubs, suggested by the Red Wing library staff.
• “Book Lust” by Nancy Pearl
• “The Book Group Book” by Margaret Atwood
• “What to Read” by Mickey Pearlman
• “The Reading Group Handbook” by Rachel Jacobsohn