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BookBrowse interviews River City Readers Women’s Book Group about all aspects of their book club.

Book Club Interviews

River City Readers Women’s Book Group

Based in Sacramento, California, the River City Readers Women’s Book Group was created to bring women together to read thoughtfully and intentionally from authors around the world. Tamara Ellis Smith interviews the group's founder, Tracy Jones:

Hi Tracy! Welcome to BookBrowse! Can you please tell us a bit about your book group?

I’d be delighted to! River City Readers Women’s Book Group (RCRWBG) was launched in September 2017 in Sacramento, California, for the purpose of bringing women together to read thoughtfully and intentionally from authors around the world—

I’m already intrigued!

The intention was to nurture conversation that informs our own lives.

From the big, wide world into your own backyards. I love that.

River City Readers Women's Book GroupYes. We wanted to bring a wide variety of women together. None of us knew each other before the first meeting. A notice was put up in a local community center and posted on NextDoor, an online neighborhood bulletin. It worked!

Books as the great connection. I love that too.

Yes. It works. This has promoted frank conversations about different life experiences and perceptions. Our greatest similarity is our love or reading—


—and our availability to meet monthly on Wednesday mornings!

Ha! Important criteria! Can you tell us about the sorts of books you read?

Our selections include novels, historical fiction, non-fiction, biographies, and memoirs, and they range in setting from Myanmar, Russia, Germany, Mexico, and the United States to Hong Kong, India, Egypt North Korea, Kenya, and France. Each year we strive to read from countries we have yet to explore. The resulting lively conversations, led by a facilitator and guided by questions as well as researched information on the author and setting, enlarge our understanding of the world—

Wonderful! Can you give us a couple of your favorites?

In 2019, memorable new reads include The Blackhouse, Lewis Trilogy #1 by Peter May. Set in the outer Hebrides of Scotland, this novel stimulated research into life on these islands, and its unique culture, history, and the rituals of the people there. We don’t often read a mystery, but this was an exception that even non-mystery readers appreciated. One member had photographs of a trip to many of the locations named in the book.

Another memorable read was The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Members went all out to research the mountain of China where the pu’er tea trees grow and the Akha people who make their livelihood from the trees. The customs and beliefs challenged us to re-examine taboos in our own culture. Lastly, everyone brought different pu’er teas to sample which enhanced our appreciation of the Akha people and the tea they produce.

You all dig deep, don’t you?

Yes! Again, we are most interested in both the commonalities and differences of the human experience.

This focus sounds like the perfect way to tap into empathy.

It broadens our compassion while challenging our beliefs and biases. And while this may all sound serious, the truth is we have a great deal of fun and walk away each month a bit changed and eager for more.

What an ideal combination! Tell us, how do you choose your books?

In December, we select our next year’s books through a book talk process. Each member brings between one and three books to promote as choices for the coming year.

So you all have a voice in the process.

We do. We also end our December meeting with something sweet and fun: a blind book exchange.

How do you do that?

Members select one favorite book from their own collection and wrap it in plain brown paper. The books are mixed up and we each select one to open. This has been a delightful experience of receiving a beloved book and thereby getting to know one another just a little better.

I’m sensing a theme of finding common ground, celebrating difference and empathy. And my common theme throughout this interview is the sentiment that I LOVE IT. But I really do! I can’t think of a more important focus.

We recommend this annual blind book exchange experience!!

Can you give us some more details?

River City Readers Women's Book GroupOver the last 20-months RCRWBG has maintained a steady membership of approximately 12-15 participants each month, with a mailing list of 40 individuals. We publish bookmarks which advertise the group and list the books for the year on the back of the card. We have book-bags for ourselves with our logo as well as stickers we apply to books we donate to shelters, library book sales, and thrift shops.

How do you fund these awesome efforts?

We offer coffee, tea, and cookies at our meetings and put out a basket for donations.

I’m going to say it—I love it!

When our donations exceeded our expenditures, we discussed donating the excess to local non-profit organizations, and at the close of 2018, we chose to make a donation our library’s Book First program, which purchases and distributes a book to each first grader in our local public schools.

Oh oh oh! Brilliant!

These books are the first and only books many of these students have ever owned. RCRWBG has recommitted in 2019 to donate money to the Book First program and has created a challenge to other local book groups to do the same. It is our hope that this small, local effort will be a force for good now and in the generations to come.

Do you have advice for other book club groups?

Please join us in this book donation effort with your own local library!!! Giving to Book First has been perhaps the single most rewarding part of our rich reading year.

I believe it! Thank you so much for talking with us, Tracy!

© May 2019.

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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