When I worked for a county library system in Ohio, one of my responsibilities was to create and facilitate a new adult book group at the central location. There had been a group running for years on Monday evenings, and our director wanted to add a second option during the day.
I tried a few different formats. First, I started a Civil War-themed book group that took place during the lunch hour, but it was a flop, attracting only one patron to one meeting. My second try was to host onsite book groups at a couple of different nursing homes in our town. I offered to bring each month’s books to the nursing home for people to read and then hold the meeting in one of their common areas. I tried several different facilities, but there was just no interest, and I felt pretty discouraged by that point.
Then the magic happened. I attended a conference for library professionals, and one of the sessions talked about partnering with local businesses to hold and promote library programs. My wheels started turning. We had a new little cafe in town that served specialty teas for breakfast and lunch, along with small portion meals like scones, soup, and finger sandwiches. And I thought, What a delightful place for a book group to meet!
And it was. We met at the tea house for two cozy years until the owner decided to retire and close, and then we transitioned to meeting at the library. I still kept the tea house feel by serving tea and coffee at 10am on the first Friday of every month, and the participants (there were about 20 on the list, and we regularly had 12-14 at each meeting) took turns bringing breakfast snacks. It was my favorite morning of the month at work, hands down.
Leaving my job in Ohio was a thousand times more difficult because I had to leave my book group. Over the course of nearly five years meeting together, we became friends, and they threw me a lovely going-away party when I moved. While I miss our monthly time together in general, sometimes the sadness is acute, like when I read a really excellent book and want to settle in with a cup of tea and chat with them about it. I just finished reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, and I just know we would have had the best discussion.
I also miss sitting down each summer to plan our next year of books. The more I got to know the group, the more fun I had selecting titles. We read a variety of fiction: historical, contemporary, suspense, and even some sci-fi and fantasy, along with a couple of nonfiction titles each year. As exciting as it was to research and choose the books, the best part was thinking, “I want to read these books with these people.”
And the other best part of a book group is that no two people read the same book. This was vividly apparent at each meeting as we talked about what we liked and what we didn’t like and how our own life experiences shaped the words we had read. And no book, no matter how popular or critically acclaimed, is universally liked, even in a group of 15.
I am so thankful for the years I got to spend with this amazing group of women and hope that someday we’ll meet again…maybe even to talk about my own book!
Are you or have you ever been a part of a book group? What do you love about it?