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February 16, 2024

Readers Share Stories About Their Book Groups

Posted by tom

In the January 18th newsletter, Carol Fitzgerald wrote about meeting with her book group: “We often meet at my house as I am the only one without young children, so gathering here assures that everyone has a night out --- and I love company…. I look forward to these two hours every month. Besides discussing the book, we kick back and talk about life…. What I really love is that they are women who are very supportive of one another. There is a camaraderie that I think can be rare these days.” Carol asked readers to email her about their own group and what makes it so special. We are happy to share their comments with you in this blog post.


Abby M.
Our large book club fell apart during COVID. We tried to regroup in the summer of 2021, but it didn’t seem to work. A few of us who are avid readers decided to get together in early 2022 and talk about a book (THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LaRUE). We had such fun that we decided to keep going --- and our new group was born.

There are only five of us, but we all live to read --- as opposed to the old group, where attendance was always iffy and many never read the books. We have become a tight-knit group, and we laugh and enjoy each other’s company. We usually meet at someone’s home, but occasionally we go out, especially in December. We also do book challenges once or twice a year. Most recently, we each read a book where the author had the same first and last initial as we do. I read Armistead Maupin’s TALES OF THE CITY.

Beth S.
We have been meeting since 2011. I started the book club at the urging of my spin instructor at the Y. I no longer take spin, and she no longer teaches it, but we are still seeing each other in the book club! Over the years, women have come and gone, though there are four of us who have been in the group the whole time. We come from different political persuasions and walks of life. We range in age from mid-50s to mid-70s. New members join at the invitation of one of the members.

We likely never would have met some of our members without the book club as we live in a large metropolitan area. But we all get along and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. We don’t always all like the books picked, but we always have lively and respectful discussions. (The member who hosts picks the book and leads the discussion.) I hope we can continue for many years to come!

Our group is called Book Parkers as most of us live in a suburb of Chicago that ends in Park --- Elmwood Park, Oak Park and Forest Park! The book club is also how I discovered Reading Group Guides and Bookreporter. I was googling for questions to ask when I was hosting book club. I have greatly benefited from both the book club and your newsletters! Oh, and I keep a list of all the books we have read. Over 100 now!

Diane A.
I’ve been subscribed to Reading Group Guides for quite a number of years, but our book club is even older! Our group first met in late 2000, and I think six of the original 12 members are still with us. Most everyone in our group is the same general age. Over the years, we’ve lamented about raising children, caring for aging parents, and our jobs. Today, we love to talk about retirement hobbies and grandchildren.

We have a Google spreadsheet that documents every book we’ve read through the years.  At our December meeting, we decide on our reading list for the coming year. Sometimes we barely discuss the book, and sometimes we complain if we didn’t like reading it. Usually everyone has read the book, but there’s no judgement if someone just comes for the fellowship.

Janice E.
I’d like to tell you about our book group. We are a group of 8-10 women, ages 24-72, and two of our members are actually the daughters of two original members. We have grandchildren and kids of every age in between. Some of us have been meeting for 18 years, and some of us have been friends for even longer. We met because we were neighbors, coworkers or parents of kids who went to school together. I know I can count on these women for love and support in every situation. We have celebrated and cried, bought new homes and downsized as empty nesters.

We love to read a wide variety of books, our favorite being historical fiction. Discussions about the books always open the door to stories about life. Between us all, we read way more books than we ever could discuss each month. This year, we are committed to being more focused on all trying to read the same book at the same time so we can have a discussion and use the Reading Group Guides questions. We try to change things up, so we have done dinners with a theme based on the book we read. In the fall, we read some classics in recognition of the start of the school year.

Our biggest rule is that you show up, even if you didn’t know which book we were reading. To us, having “book group” once a month is a reason to make time for us and our friendship. We alternate who hosts, which usually includes dinner, but everyone brings food. We tend to make our decision on which book to read from a consensus --- maybe it’s what’s popular, a new release or a favorite author. We often search Reading Group Guides recommendations for our next book, and at this time of year we will review the list of favorites from last year to see what we missed.

Jean H.
My book club formed in September 2002, and I joined it in January 2004 when I moved to the area, so I had several books to read in order to “catch up.” We meet at our church for an hour every Sunday morning from September to May and then monthly in members’ homes in the summer. Currently we have 15 on our email list, although usually only 6-9 show up on any given week. We are aged 45-85. I believe all of us have college degrees and have worked/are working in fields of engineering, chemistry, biology, therapy, teaching, business management, accounting, library/media and homemaking, among others. We are single, married, divorced, childless, college-age children, adult children and grandparents.

Our membership changes as people move away, lose interest or die. We have different political views, so we try not to talk politics. We've supported each other through troubled teenagers, separations, divorce, loss of parents, illness, surgeries and more. We managed to meet virtually during the pandemic's early months and held spaced-out meetings outdoors in the summer of 2020. We're happy to be meeting in person once again.

Over 22 years, we've read 275 books, averaging 12 or 13 books a year. That includes one book we read twice, one book we abandoned as a group after one week, and two collections of short stories. We've hosted local authors, to varying success, and have Zoomed with one author. Every member has a chance to offer suggestions, and then we choose our books three or four times a year. Summer hostesses always get to choose the book title. We have used a local library's Book Club Bag of Books (10-12 copies on loan for six weeks) many times. Members buy new and/or used books, borrow library books and use e-readers. We always try to find discussion questions --- Reading Group Guides is a Godsend for us --- to guide our discussions, and our best discussions are when we disagree on whether or not we liked the book.

Because we read about 125 pages each week, some of our discussions revolve around guessing what's going to happen to characters or the plot. Sometimes we're even right! Our members have different reading interests --- one loves mysteries, one loves biographies, one refuses to read any more WWII/Holocaust books, and one likes to psychoanalyze the characters, while others are not at all discriminating. We all agree that book club gets us to read beyond our usual genre --- and that it's a good thing.

Liz E.
This year, our 14-member group will celebrate its 35th anniversary! We live on an island in the middle of the Niagara River between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY, called Grand Island (French explorers described it as "grand" or large). The group began as an offshoot of the local Welcome Wagon, which introduced new islanders to each other at monthly luncheons.

I was the first to volunteer to host a monthly book discussion group in the evening. As a result, I somehow become the de facto moderator for decades because I produced "discussion" notes on each title we read (before publishers followed suit). They included a character list with descriptions, a short summary, discussion questions, a record of who picked the title and/or hosted the meeting, the next title and hostess (and eventually what we read at the same time last year). Finally, I listed recommended titles, which were mainly the titles I had read in the interim between meetings. The book notes helped provoke memories of the book (if they had read it long before) and also served to keep members on topic.

Over the years, we added a few traditions, like having a picnic rather than a true discussion meeting in July or August. For a number of years, we also held a joint meeting with another Island Book Group at holiday time until they disbanded. In the beginning, we allowed the hostess to produce choices for the next meeting, as well as refreshments. Later, we found it easier to produce a year-long list of books, as well as hostesses. Everyone was allowed to suggest titles that we voted on.

Our members varied widely in age when we began. We became so popular as members wanted to bring additional friends that we had to limit our size for several years to a number that hostesses could accommodate in their living and dining rooms. Because we have been in existence for so long, I brought my youngest daughter to meetings because I was breastfeeding (she will be 31 this December). Members often ask how she is now as she helped me serve refreshments for years when it was my turn to host. We have lost members when their husbands got jobs across the country (she and her husband actually moved back years later!) or who moved to help care for elderly parents. Now that we are all much older, we have lost members due to age-related disease. (We donated a tree to the library "garden" in memory of one of these precious friends.)

During the COVID years, our "advanced" ages put the majority of us in a risk category, so we did not meet at all. When we finally did get back on track, we picked up with the titles we had not read on our last list. I asked to be relieved of my moderator duties. My monthly "book notes" had filled numerous binders. A committee of three took over. We now meet at the local library community room during the early afternoon with volunteer moderators and hostesses. Driving at night, especially during the winter, had become a daunting proposition to many.

I have kept a Master List of the titles we have read over the years. New members began proposing titles that we actually had read. It is up to eight pages long!

Mary Lou W.
Our book group had an interesting start. Somewhere in late 2019 and early 2020, right before the pandemic, a 40-something woman posted a message on NextDoor. Her senior mom had just moved to Denver and didn’t know anyone. The woman asked if anyone would be interested in meeting for lunch, and she gave the name of the restaurant and the date/time. Would you believe that over 50 senior women showed up?

Out of the original 50, several smaller groups were formed --- for example, a movie discussion group, a knitting group, a walking group, and…a book group. I was not involved in the very earliest beginnings of all this senior fun, because I was in the middle of tutoring for the bar exam and had no spare time. I was determined to join up as soon as bar review ended.

The first group I attended was the movie group. About six of us met to see Little Women, and it was a blast sitting in the movie theater with all these people who just wanted to make friends. How fun.

And then March 2020 happened, and that was the end of in-person get-togethers. The book group was still in their early days, but they made a seamless transition to Zoom. I was able to attend the meeting, and I met the most amazing group of senior women. We all loved books, we all were in various stages of seniorhood, we all lived in Denver, and we all were interested in making friends.

We continued to meet on Zoom until we got the all-clear about COVID and we all could be vaccinated. The first time we met in person, we all exclaimed about how tall or short we were, as it wasn’t easy to tell those details on Zoom. We started meeting for lunch just to visit with each other, in addition to our monthly book discussion meetings.

I now consider these women to be such good friends. We’ve been to each other’s houses, gotten together to sit outside in the park in the summer, and stepped up to help when one of us needed it. I got so much support from them last fall when I was in an auto accident that totaled my car and left me with a cracked sternum and on oxygen for 10 weeks.

I consider it something of a miracle the way this all happened, beginning with a loving daughter posting on NextDoor that her mom was new to town and wanted to make some friends. Who knew?

Suzie D.
When my husband and I retired to the beautiful island of Anguilla in the Caribbean in 2001, one of the first things I did was join a book club. In 2003, I took over the “management” of our group and continue to enjoy it 21 years later. We usually have around 15 members, which fluctuates during the seasons as about half of our group are “snowbirds.” We read a variety of genres with each member submitting and leading the discussion of her book. We meet monthly either in someone’s home or at a restaurant. I have found that book clubs are a great way to make friends and read books you normally wouldn’t choose.

Vesna D.
We have been meeting for five years. We meet at my house and on occasion take a field trip to a restaurant or winery for that particular month. We were a spotlight group again in an online newsletter, and we were so very lucky in 2020 to be a Book Club Girl-sponsored club. We miss those days of boxes and boxes of new titles and swag coming each month! We now have four mother/daughter pairs and couldn't be happier to see one another each month. With the unpredictable weather in Sparta, NJ, and the height of the flu/cold season each winter, we Zoom January through March.

This really is the best thing I have done for myself. The door opened to us due to our love of books and has stayed open all these years as we developed a strong sense of community and friendship with one another.