Karen LeClerc joins us to chat about her book club which enjoys a very relaxed atmosphere, picking their books just one month ahead and happily going off topic to discuss issues that are important to group members whenever they happen to arise.
Hello Karen, thanks for chatting with us today. First off, can you tell us a bit about your group.
We've been together 7 years; we're between our 40s and 60s and often the 15-year-old-daughter of one of our members join us as well. We're a hodge-podge of personalities, from boisterous to quiet and shy, from straightforward to very reserved.
Our meetings tend to be relaxed and unstructured. If somebody's got something they want to discuss the group is happy to put the book aside in favor of discussing the topic that's come up.
How many members do you have? And how did you come up with your name?
We are 12 women, about 8-10 attend each meeting. When we were discussing a name for our club, one member suggested the Read and Feed Society and one suggested the Tome-Heads, hence the name!
How did the group get started?
I started the group because I wanted to get together with others who enjoyed reading and then discussing books. I didn't want a group that was going to seem like WORK. I wanted a group that would get together and not feel intimidated that they had to have something prepared other than their own opinion of the book. No trying to figure out the essence of the main character and why so and so did what – just read and come to the meeting. That simple!
Tell us about the sort of books you read?
We read mostly fiction and best sellers, and a few young adult books. We read authors like Richard Paul Evans, Nicholas Sparks, Jan Karon and other authors that write with a similar style.
During Lent we read a Christian themed book. We enjoy Max Lucado (3:16: The Numbers of Hope etc). A member suggests a book and we go from there.
Can you tell us some of the books that have generated the most interesting discussions?
Color Me Butterfly by L.Y. Marlow: The story of four generations of black women who have endured physical and emotional abuse. The author called in and we spoke with her about her experiences in such a trying life.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: A very heart wrenching story that had us all thinking about the holocaust.
Any books that didn't go down well?
We often have one or two people that don't like a book but not too often that everyone dislikes it. But The Bible According to Mark Twain was a real bomb. It was one of our first bombs and we bring it up a lot. No one liked it.
You mentioned earlier that your meetings tend to be unstructured and that the group as a whole is happy to put the book discussion aside in favor of discussing a different topic if a member brings up something important about their life. How does this work in practice?
The folks who joined in the beginning that wanted structure just stopped coming to the meetings. Those that wanted a very educational, broadminded, intellectual discussion don't come anymore either. We knew that we were busy women who just wanted to relax and discuss the book or whatever. If getting off topic was ever an issue for someone they never mentioned it. None of us have time to make this group be work. If you don't get the book finished, or in some cases even cracked the cover, you can still come to the meeting and not feel bad. We've found that once we start discussing a book, more often than not those that haven't read the book will have some comment to add.
That's interesting to hear as the #1 cause of angst that I hear about in book clubs is when members of the group have different expectations – some wanting to discuss the book in detail while others see the evening as more of a social get together. How about special events, do you get together outside of your regular meetings?
We often meet at a local pizza place. We have gone to plays and movies that have come from books we read either as a group or as individuals. Evening was a better movie than a book. Tuesdays with Morrie was a great book and play. We have had authors call us; we've met an author at a local restaurant, had dinner with her and then discussed the book. Several of us have gone to an independent book store that has a yearly publishers' evening for book clubs. The publishers bring books (either new or old) that they think would be good reading group choices. The book store has refreshments and gives away free books. That's the best part!
Wow, all these "extra curricular" activities sound like they must take some organizing. How do you go about this?
The extra curricular activities are just worked out. We decide what night will work for most and whoever can make it comes along. We don't get our feelings hurt if we can't make the outing. We realize that we all have lives outside the book club but we sure enjoy our time together.
So, what books are coming up on your reading schedule soon?
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult is next. We don't usually pick a book more than one month out. You never know what book might be suggested and if we already have a book selected we have to wait a month or two to read the new suggestion.
Are there any particular challenges you've faced as a group, or anything you'd do differently if you were starting the group from scratch?
I think the biggest challenge is finding dates to meet that work for all of us. We try to meet the last Tuesday of the month but if someone can't make that date we often rearrange so that everyone can make it. If I was to have done anything differently it would have been to have the meeting schedule be more definite.
Any final tip that you'd like to pass on to others?
Just have fun and do what works for you. Don't let belonging to a book club make reading a task rather than something you do for enjoyment. There are too many good books out there for reading not to be fun.
Thank you Karen. We wish you and the Read and Feed Tome-Head Society many happy years reading together!
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