Book groups.

Author:Cowles, Shirley A.

How would you describe your book group?

"Keep it simple"; "Write it down"; "Positive, caring and practical"; "Intense, loyal, and nerdy." Over the past six years, we have engaged in intellectual conversation and stimulating debates on controversial issues during our book discussions on such topics as medical malpractice, mistreatment of animals, the foundation of the Catholic Church, misunderstood youth, substance abuse, illiteracy of children in underdeveloped countries, dementia, and "the fountain of youth."

How is your book group structured?

We meet every six weeks. The host selects the book of her choice and we gather at her home. As we cycle through our book discussions, we have one round of selections based on "free choice," with the next round thematic. We have had one round of discussion on multicultural/travel books, where the setting served as a prominent character in the novel. The host researched the setting of the book's destination and offered food indigenous to that country. We have "traveled" to Vietnam, China, Italy, Ukraine, England, Burma, and India, while delving into The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli, The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, and The Good Wife by Anne Cherian.

What have been some of your best discussions?

We enjoyed rereading and discussing the following classics through an older, more mature analytical lens: Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, John Steinbeck's East of Eden, Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Falling in love all over again with Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird, one member spoke of Atticus's "choices and quiet consistent strength and supreme self possession." Another noted a high point of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: "Revisiting Francie's struggles and extreme disadvantages in life, despite her environment," and...

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