How would you describe your group?
We are a group currently with 16 members--4 men and 12 women. Several are retired education professionals. However, there is great diversity in the remaining contingent, with professionals in the ministry, Navy, library, health care, veterinary medicine, and rock band management. We operate as a part of the Summers County Public Library's community programs, and membership is open to all interested individuals. We are proud that together we have read and discussed 158 books!
How is your group structured?
We meet monthly, usually at the library. On special occasions, we meet at a member's home or a public venue. In June--at a dinner meeting--we choose our reading list for the year. Each member suggests at least one book, usually one that he or she has already read. We choose 11 books by negotiation; then we compile a list; finally, one member agrees to lead the discussion of each book, usually the one he or she has suggested. We prefer to keep our group's focus on the book discussions, and as a result, we hold meetings involving food only on special occasions, two or three times a year.
Do you focus on any themes?
We choose our books primarily by categories. Each year, we discuss one classic, one book involving food, at least one history or biography, and one genre of fiction other than a novel, such as poetry or a short story collection. We try to find a balance between fiction and nonfiction.
We often invite an author or a specialist to come to our discussions. Some of our favorite meetings have involved special guests. A particularly poignant visit for the discussion of David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars came from a former internee in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Another very enlightening visit for the discussion of Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle came from a former teacher of the author. A third eye-opening visit came from a former deep-sea diver when we read Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II.
Do you have any special activities?
Reading The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert inspired a visit by the group to the Boone, North Carolina, home of the book's subject, Eustace Conway, who operates a back-to-the-land place for training young people in survival skills and also invites tourists to experience a taste of simple, long-ago life. In our first year, Frances Mayes's...