How would you describe your group?
Our group was founded in Cairo, Georgia, in 1968, and then followed one of the founding members, Carolyn Wight, to Thomasville, Georgia, in 1973. The membership has changed as people have moved away or developed other priorities. Since our group's founding, we've kept the number of members limited to nine: that's the magic number because the club meets once a month between September and May. This arrangement allows each member to serve as both hostess and presenter once a year. We're fortunate to have local readers ready to step into one of the nine spots if someone else moves on.
Our members range in age from the late 50s to the mid- 70s. We are all women; most of us are primarily homemakers; and we are all college graduates. We are also very active in the community, serving on various community and church boards and committees. More than friends, we are each other's intellectual companions and group therapists. We include guests most months, and every so often, we invite husbands as well. An outstanding couples' evening was the program on Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation presented by our senior member and her husband.
How is your group different?
We know that one of the difficulties other book groups face is getting all the members to finish the book. That's never been a problem for us because we are fundamentally structured so that the members come in "unprepared"--that is, without having first read the book.
So, wait, your members don't read the book?
No, each member selects her own book and/or topic and presents her program to a receptive audience. We have found that this presentation format, rather than group discussion, exposes us to topics we would not have chosen as a group and supplements our independent reading nicely. This year, some of us are going to select Pulitzer prize-winning books and authors and ask everyone to read something by them for discussion. This year will be the first time we've done that.
Since we don't have a prescribed book list, the subjects range widely, though our presentation approach often leads us toward nonfiction. Through the years, we have studied biographies, self-help books, religious tomes, histories, muckraking exposes, best-selling novels, classics, political commentaries, and humorous tales. The style and visual aids we employ also range widely to reflect individual personalities. We have had a piano concert, taken personality tests...