Book groups.

Author:Kalamazoo, Miriam Downey

TEN YEARS, 100 BOOKS

SUBMITTED BY MIRIAM DOWNEY KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN

What does your book group look like?

The quality that makes our group interesting is that we are diverse in age-we range from the 30s to the 70s. Group members are having babies and grandbabies all at the same time. We currently have 12 members. The group just celebrated its 10th anniversary and read its 100th book, which, appropriately, was a choice of short story collections by Alice Munro, this year's recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The population of the group has changed a bit over the years, but four of the founding members remain. If someone leaves the group, we have a friend or two eagerly waiting in the wings.

When and where do you meet?

We meet once a month in the evening. When we began, we met in a coffee shop, but we found that meeting in members' homes is more amenable to discussion. The host chooses the book for the month. We try to keep the meetings low key and ourselves open-minded about the book selections. We serve wine, of course, and snacks. Usually, we just start talking about our books without leadership. Sometimes, our members are so excited about the month's book that conversations spring up immediately. Often, someone will begin the conversation with, "So what did you think?" Not surprisingly, the conversation can be short; at other times, we have to stop our conversation after a couple of hours. We don't meet in July, and our December meeting happens at a restaurant, where we exchange small gifts and don't discuss a book.

How do you choose your books?

How the group chooses its books has evolved, just like our meetings. We tend to read current fiction, either the book from the community's Reading Together program or a book by the author visiting the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival in Dowagiac, a neighboring community. We read an occasional classic, and we enjoy nonfiction books that catch our eye. We like to attend readings by authors visiting our city or surroundings, and once we Skyped with a local author, Bonnie Jo Campbell, which was great fun. Because several of our members are teachers, we laugh that during stressful months, we have to read short books. One year, we spread Shantaram by Gregory Roberts out over two months because it was a "thick" book.

What have been some of your literary adventures?

In honor of our 10th anniversary, one member put together a slide show of our time together. We discovered we had read 68 novels, 14...

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