With cooler weather and kids back in school, fall is the perfect opportunity to read a book, indoors or outdoors.
Lake Wylie resident Doreen Kowalczyk recalls reading habits among her extended family.
“Ten lounge chairs lined up, with every nose in a book. My husband didn’t understand it at first, how we could sit there for hours with no one saying a word. But that was how we’d relax. We’d read.”
As books were finished, Doreen’s family would often swap titles and discuss the stories they’d read. Sharing a book is like sharing an experience, and talking about the plot twists and character developments contributes to the joy of reading and ignites a spark in everyday conversation.
The love of reading and conversing about books made Doreen jump at the chance when invited to join a book club with some of her Lake Wylie friends. Alice Smith, a long-time member and the current club coordinator, said, “I don’t know exactly how long the club has been in existence, but more than 20 years.”
Alice’s club meets once a month starting in fall during the school year, usually around the third Thursday night of the month.
Each fall, the group holds an organizational dinner, introducing new members and choosing books to read in the coming year. Their club has about a dozen members, and each recommends a book or two, providing a synopsis of the storyline and personal or second-hand reviews. If the number of book recommendations exceeds the number of monthly meetings planned, the ladies vote on the books they’d like to read. Alice tallies the votes and issues a monthly reading schedule.
The women take turns hosting the book club at their homes, usually hosting the month that her recommendation is read. The host prepares a few questions to stimulate conversation about the book. A meal is themed to complement the book, and the host provides the entree and designates the menu. Other members bring side dishes, appetizers, wine and dessert to complete the meal.
For instance, this past spring, the club read “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee, the sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The setting of the book was Alabama in the 1950’s. Susan Murphy hosted and served a Southern-themed meal with ham and biscuits, sweet potato casserole and a festive wine punch. The ladies visited together over appetizers and punch, and dinner conversation centered around the book.
“I don’t think this book was one that you like or dislike,” commented Rose Cummings. “It was more a slice of history that needed to be read.” The ladies discussed the characters in the book, the social issues covered, and related memories and personal observations pertaining to the theme.
Sue Brown said that she reads more, thanks to this book club.
“Before I joined, I didn’t allow myself time to read very often. There were so many other things that needed to be done. But being part of a book club gives me a reason to read, and is an event. I look forward to having a night with my friends to eat and laugh and talk about books.”
Doreen said that she doesn’t necessarily read more, but she does read differently.
“Being part of a book club exposes me to different authors, different types of books that I might not normally read.”
Carol Goehring, a River Hills resident, monitors another book club, one that has been meeting for about five years. Her club meets monthly and the members take turns hosting.
“The host selects the book, leads the discussion and provides all refreshments,” said Carol. “So each member takes care of everything about once a year, and lets others do it the rest of the time.”
Carol’s group reads all sorts of books. “We’ll read autobiographies, historical fiction, top sellers and motivational titles. We used to pick categories, but now we just go with the flow. The hosts are really good about mixing it up a bit. If we’ve read several titles within a particular genre, we’ll go on to something else.”
Some of her club’s recent favorites include “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr, “The Gravity of Birds” by Tracey Guzeman and “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak.
Carol thinks that a dozen members is the ideal size for a book club.
“If it gets any bigger than that, then smaller conversations start to break out around the room. We have thirteen members, and usual attendance is ten or eleven, which is perfect.”
Lives can get busy, and most book clubs encourage attendance even if the member didn’t finish the book.
“It is really about camaraderie and stimulating conversation,” Carol remarked. “Compatibility is important in a book club, and we’re really lucky to have a group that gets along well.”
Public book clubs are also available through the York County Libraries.
“Wylie Readers,” led by Robin Jackson at the Lake Wylie branch, is a club open to the public that meets the first Saturday morning of each month. Currently, the “Wylie Readers” group is sampling Southern authors.
Recent selections include Pat Conroy’s “Death of Santini,” John Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas,” and “The All Girl Filling Station” by Fannie Flagg.
At the library’s book club meeting, former school teacher Robin Jackson enjoys providing props and a presentation to help the books come alive and spark conversations. She sometimes uses book club kits provided by the library to select titles.
Anyone registered with the library can check out book club kits to use in their own groups.
The kits contain ten copies of the book, an author biography, and suggested discussion questions. The York County Library website lists over 100 kits which can be checked out free of charge, and are loaned out for a period of eight weeks. The kits are located at the main branch in Rock Hill, but can be transported to any branch. To find and reserve the kits, go online and type “Book Club Kits” in the “Search the catalog” field or call the library at 803-831-7774.