Thursday, March 21, 2019

Book Clubs

By Debby Giusti

Yesterday was the first day of spring so enjoy the sunshine, grab a cup of coffee or hot tea and join me in talking about one of my favorite subjects — book clubs! If you love to read, analyze characters and discuss theme, moral premise, symbolism or motifs, you’re probably in a book club. If not, you need to be.

My Book Club! We've been meeting for over a decade.

Oprah Winfrey is often credited with the rise in popularity of book clubs. The talk show hostess started her own television book club in 1996 and encouraged women to read books she chose, beginning with the club’s first read,The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Oprah picks invariably soared to the top of the bestseller charts, and even classics, such as John Steinbeck’s East of Eden,gained a new resurgence of notoriety due to what has been called the Oprah Phenomenon. Over a span of fifteen years, members read a total of 70 books until the club ended in 2011.


This great group of ladies hosted me at their first
blook club meeting. They started out with four
people. Now they have more than a dozen members.
Everyone wants to be part of their group.

Pamela Burger, in her article, “Women's Groups and the Rise of the Book Club," claims that women’s clubs in vogue in the late 19th century--when ladies gathered to discuss literature and the arts--actually gave birth to the concept of the modern book club.

Katie Vu goes back even farther. In her article, “The Book Club Phenomena,” Ku attributes the beginning of book clubs to Puritan Anne Hutchinson, who first gathered women into a reading circle in 1634. Margaret Fuller supposedly sponsored the first bookstore based club in 1840. Some sixty years later, avid readers received selections in the mail thanks to the Book-of-the-Month-Club and The Literary Guild.

Our read this particular month was Kristin Hannah's
The Nightingale.

Today virtual book clubs abound. Word of mouth book promotion has turned digital with readers sharing information online about authors and their books. Goodreads provides a forum for its more than 20 million members to discuss and review their favorite reads. Facebook reading groups interact with authors and discuss their stories in a number of forums, including Q & As and author chats.

Inevitably, everyone congregates in the kitchen!
No matter how or when they started, books clubs seem to be a permanent part of our American culture. In 2014, BookBrowse interviewed women who read more than one book a month and found that 56% were members of book clubs. The majority of clubs—89%--meet in person and read an average of 9 to 12 books each year. The books are selected from various genres with the classics and bestsellers being the most frequently chosen as monthly picks.
L to R: Sandy Marvin, my daughter Mary and Sandra
Kirkpatrick chat before our book discussion.

The book club in which I’m a member started more than a decade ago with a church retreat. After the weekend religious gathering, many of us wanted to continue to meet monthly. We started reading inspirational non-fiction but quickly evolved into a fiction reading group. The second Wednesday of each month finds us gathered in one of the members’ homes. The evening begins with appetizers and beverages as we socialize for an hour or so. The hostess provides a light dinner or heavy hors d’oeuvres and dessert. After eating, we turn our focus to the monthly read. Questions in the back of the book sometimes provide a springboard for our discussions, and it’s rare that a story doesn’t leave us with a thoughtful insight or takeaway that we can apply to our daily lives. At the end of the evening, the hostess announces the next month’s read. Each December, we have a book exchange with the January selection chosen from one of the gift books.

Great discussion at our May meeting last year.

I enjoy visiting book clubs and greatly appreciate having my story selected as their monthly read. The conversation flows, and book club members invariably have questions about where I get my ideas and who creates the cover art and the back of the book blurb. In addition to answering their questions, I also provide a behind the scenes look at publishing and the writing life. 


Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your book club or any reading programs with which you’ve been involved. 

Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings!
Debby Giusti

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Hiding in Plain Sight
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After Julia Bradford’s son witnesses a gang shooting, hiding in witness protection on Abraham King’s Amish farm is the only hope the Englischer and her children have. Even as danger closes in, Julia is drawn to the community’s peaceful ways—and the ex-cop turned Amish protector. But when their location is discovered, can Abraham protect her family…and possibly have a future by her side?

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3 comments:

  1. Wow, I loved the history of the book club. Thanks for sharing. I use to belong to a book club at our local library, but haven't had time lately to attend.

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  2. Thanks for stopping by, Marie! I enjoy the group I'm in, but extra time is always something I'm short on, especially when a deadline looms!

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  3. I haven't belonged to a book club before. I would like to. I did once belong to a gourmet dinner club with ladies from my church. That was fun.

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