BookBrowse interviews Judy Gareis, BookBrowse member and member of the "Wine Not Read" book club of Indianapolis, IN joins us to chat about how their group has developed a cohesive group that values both their book discussion and their social time after only one year together. about all aspects of their book club.

Book Club Interviews

Judy Gareis, BookBrowse member and member of the "Wine Not Read" book club of Indianapolis, IN joins us to chat about how their group has developed a cohesive group that values both their book discussion and their social time after only one year together.

Hello Judy, thanks for joining us to chat about your book club. First off, can you tell us a bit about your group?

We've been together one year. The group was started by two business colleagues, Nancy Frauhiger and Cheryl Good, who invited other friends to enjoy books and socializing with wine. We debated over a name as we sat together having a glass of wine when someone suggested "Why Not Read?".  Member Lisa Kuhn, after thinking a moment, corrected us, saying "no, no, no—it's "Wine Not Read." We toasted to the name "Wine Not Read" and we agreed to each bring a bottle of wine we like to each meeting.

Hang on a second! You say you each bring a bottle to each meeting! How many bottles get drunk?

Not all of them! We always have lots of good food and we meet generally for 3-3.5 hours, so wine drinking is prudent. We have designated drivers when we drive in twos or threes to the meeting location as well.

So, a year later, what does your book club look like?

We have eleven women with varying interests in the types of books; occupations vary from homemakers, hair stylist, community volunteers, consultants, bank executive and business owners. We range from comfortable, casual, fun-lovers to very serious readers. What we have in common is that we all enjoy the social aspect of our book discussions as much as the dialogues we have about our opinions of the books. Even the more serious readers and personalities in the group have all said they enjoy the social aspect of the book club.

From left: Anne Burley, Cheryl Goode (Co-founder), Nancy Frauhiger (Co-founder), Judy Gareis, Donna Franklin, Lisa Kuhn, Linda Toomer, Marilyn Pitz and Linda Eilmann.

Is there anything that you think you might do differently than other groups?

One thing that makes us a little different to most of the groups I've heard about is that we encourage our members to come even if they've not fully completed our month's selection (or haven't even been able to read the book at all) in order to enjoy the social side of our meetings. We've found that members always find some way to contribute to the discussion in general and this policy creates less of a feeling of obligation or pressure for the members and encourages them to participate each month. We have not had any problems with not having enough people who have finished the book and who can engage in full discussion.

Is this your first book club experience?

I attended a book discussion at a Barnes & Noble store for a while years ago. It was interesting but I missed the personal connection I now have with my book club members.

What's your favorite thing about belonging to your book club?

It's a reminder that we all have differing views of the world, what we enjoy reading, what is meaningful to each of us and that we need to take this time to be together to share these differing world views and our unique wisdoms.

Eloquently put! Tell us about the sort of books you read and how you choose them.

Members each bring their ideas for books they've read and enjoyed or book reviews or recommendations and we go around our circle to share our recommendations and ask questions of each other about the books. I always bring a suggestion to contribute from BookBrowse ratings and reviews.

We jointly select which ones we want to put on our reading list with a facilitator leading the discussion. We try to keep a variety of book types in the queue.

Any particular books that stand out as favorites, or titles that bombed?

No particular favorites, we've read a lot of good books, some of them less memorable than others for individual members, but we did enjoy particularly interesting discussions with The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, and books about women's issues like I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron and Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott have added humor and personal sharing in our group.

We really haven't had any bombs, although we've had books that several people said they didn't like and we tend to try to correct a book selection if we start to read a book and find it's not as expected. We've found that books that bring out strong political or religious beliefs are more difficult for some of the members; however, we have found that differing beliefs can be discussed without judgment being expressed by other members.

Tell us a little about the meetings themselves.

Our meetings are casual and informal with great light food selections and, of course, good wine. We meet the 3rd Monday of each month at 7pm and we rotate hosting in each member's home throughout the year. If you host you don't facilitate—too much work for one person!

The person who recommends the book usually is the facilitator. We start our meetings with eating and socializing. Sometimes we go around our circle and talk about something important that's happening in our lives that month we want to share. Then our Secretary (appointed annually) reviews the schedule of next month's meeting, book selection and facilitator and any changes in membership (introduction of new members or departure information from anyone leaving the club).

Last year we selected books 3-4 months in advance; this year I believe we'll try to pick the year's selections up front as well as determining the hosting/facilitating schedule.

Do you have any events that are special to your book club or fun ideas you've tried?

In December, we met at a restaurant and didn't discuss a book selection. We each brought a $25 gift and drew numbers to exchange gifts. The photo is from this event.

We also had an event with our spouses/partners this year. We watched the DVD "The Secret" followed by group discussion. It was very interesting to include the guys in the conversation. Some of them really got into it and others enjoyed listening. Having the spouses/partners join us added a new dimension to our discussion. We had good food and wine of course! We've planned to hold a similar evening this year.

Have you ever had authors visit with your book club – either in person or by phone?

Not yet. However, we'd like to try BookBrowse's Invite the Author program this year for sure!

If you were starting from scratch is there anything you'd do differently?

Make it known up front that you are invited to come whether or not you've read the entire book and even if you couldn't read any of the selection – and invite everyone to participate in the discussion of topics.

Have you faced any challenges as a group? If so, what did you do to solve the problem?

Members not coming month after month—we initiated a commitment request to the missing members so that we could replace them with someone who could come on a regular basis. We try to keep the membership list so that we have at least 8 members attending but not more than 12. That works best with the seating arrangements in most people's homes.

Are there any tips that you'd like to pass on to other book clubs?

Don't worry about using a structured method for the book discussion. Let the conversation shift from social to the book naturally and let the group determine how long they want to continue the book discussion before shifting back to social. In other words—don't get too wrapped up in structuring or controlling the evening—let it evolve!

Thank you very much Judy, we wish you and the rest of the "Wine Not Read" ladies many more happy years reading and discussing together!

© February 2008.

Would you be interested in being interviewed for this feature? If so, please contact us with brief details about your club. It is very helpful if you include both a contact email and a telephone number.

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