Friday, March 10, 2017

Week 8: Book Club Experience

Westchester Public Library offers seven book discussion/review groups for those who love to read and to talk about what they’ve read. Each group meets monthly. All of them have a staff member involved, but they do not necessarily lead the discussion each month.

BiFocal Bookies (self-named) 

On Tuesday, February 14, attendees will discuss Lila by Marilynn Robinson, a new American classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead. Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church, the only available shelter from the rain, and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Copies of the current book are available on a first-come first-served basis. Stop in at the circulation desk at the Hageman Branch and sign one out to read. Books can then be returned for others to read before the discussion group meets.

Popular BooksAt the Water's Edge By Sara Gruen

Set in Loch Ness, right in the middle of WWII, a foolish group of rich Americans arrive in search of the famous monster. Narrator Maddie must make sense of the circumstances that have brought her to this wild locale. Only then can she discover the strength she needs to make her own decisions. Enjoy a delightfully intriguing cast of characters and the engaging style of storytelling that has made Gruen so popular.

Mad About Mysteries

Come meet Valparaiso author Ruth Foster as she introduces us to her newest book, King Richard's Sword. The sixth book in the Lady Apollonia mystery series, King Richard's Sword finds Lady Apollonia of Aust protecting her son amidst murder, sexual misconduct, and illegal money lending in 14th century Worcester.

Bookmarks at Noon

It's time to get off the beaten path. Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders celebrates over 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world.

Talk about a bucket list: here are natural wonders—the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, or a baobob tree in South Africa that's so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably. Architectural marvels, including the M.C. Escher-like stepwells in India. Mind-boggling events, like the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain, where men dressed as devils literally vault over rows of squirming infants. Not to mention the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, Turkmenistan's 40-year hole of fire called the Gates of Hell, a graveyard for decommissioned ships on the coast of Bangladesh, eccentric bone museums in Italy, or a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches, still on display in Devon, England. Created by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, Atlas Obscura revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious. Reviewed by Annmarie Kostyk.

Books that Make You Think

Westchester Public Library invites those who enjoy reading thought-provoking books to attend Books Make You Think Discussion Group.

This month we will be discussing Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio.” Sherwood Anderson's structured story collection is considered one of the first examples of modernist literature and an American masterpiece.Through twenty-three connected short stories, the author looks into the lives of the inhabitants of a small town in the American heartland. In a simple and intense style, these psychological portraits of the sensitive and imaginative of Winesburg's population are seen through the eyes of a young reporter-narrator, George Willard. Their stories are about loneliness and alienation, passion and virginity, wealth and poverty, thrift and profligacy, carelessness and abandon. Join us and we'll visit this work nearly 100 years after it was first published.

Graphic Novel Book Club

From Hayao Miyazaki, creator of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, comes this tale of environmental catastrophe as man delves into powers it has no business dealing with. In our hubris the world is past the brink of ecological disaster as a giant malevolent forest is slowly swallowing all the major world populations. A beautiful and resounding tale of the consequences and responsibilities we face as we use up our planets' resources.

Pizza Pajama Book Club for YA

Bookworms can discuss books they have recently read, are currently reading or even old-time favorites. Pizza will be provided to fuel the conversation. For teens grades 6-12 - The Pizza Pajama Book Club at Thomas Library is just for teens in grades 6-12. This month we will be reading “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. Pizza will be provided to fuel the conversation. Registration is required and can be done by calling or visiting the Thomas Branch.

Book Club Experience
I attended the BiFocal Bookies discussion of Lila by Marilynn Robinson on February 14, 2017 from 1 pm to 2 pm. 

Who is asking the questions, is there a leader or do people take turns?
This month's discussion was led by the library clerk (Ronnie) who is a member of the club. The members volunteer to lead the discussion, usually for the book they have suggested. There were 11 members present. 

If there is a leader, does the leader answer the questions as well or let the attendees respond first?
Ronnie had a list of prepared questions which she allowed the members to discuss first, but she always added her views and provided additional background and relevant historical information. 

What type of questions are asked? Any involving just yes or no answers?
Most of the questions asked were open-ended and involved the themes of loyalty and abandonment. They also discussed the Dust Bowl and how that influenced this story. Many of the members recalled family members who had lived through the Dust Bowl and had told them their stories. None of the questions were yes or no.

Do all attendees actively participate?
This book was unusual because only Ronnie and one other attendee had even remotely liked it. Several of them did not even finish reading it. Almost everyone participated, if not to answer one of the prepared questions, but by bringing up questions of their own. These dealt with family history and the religions views presented in the book.

Did any attendees swoop in and steal all the spotlight?
No, the discussion was very well balanced among members.

What is the atmosphere of the discussion, where is it taking place?
The atmosphere of the discussion was friendly and involved a lot of give-and-take among members. They have met long enough for friendships to have formed. There was some good-natured kidding of one member who had been "shamed" into finishing the book the night before by another member, who didn't even like the book either. The meeting took place in a separate meeting room in the library. There was a lively discussion about the definition and use of a credenza. 

Are snacks or drinks provided?
Yes, bottled water, coffee, hot water with tea or hot chocolate, and cookies. Often members will bring a snack related to the book, especially if they are leading the discussion.

What types of books does this book club normally discuss?
The majority of book discussed are literary fiction, leaning toward the Women's Lives and Relationships genre, but they have read locally related mysteries, historical fiction related to the Chicagoland area, an Indiana author during the Bicentennial, and non-fiction as well. 

In this particular discussion, Ronnie began with an author biography. During her lifetime she has received many awards. Among them are the 2005 Pulitzer, the 2012 Humanities Award, the 2016 Library of Congress prize for American Fiction. In 2016, she was named to Time Magazine's list of 100 most influential people. She shared a special relationship with President O'Bama, who greatly admired her and enjoyed her books and essays. Here is a link to a conversation they had in Iowa in 2015:

Ronnie closed the meeting by reiterating that no one was obligated to finish the book, but she encouraged everyone to still attend the discussion, since we can always learn from others.

As Branch Manager, I was very pleased to find out how many of the guidelines spelled out in the ilovelibraries article  by Anna Healy, about starting a book club that this group already has in place. They covered almost all of the suggestions in How to Structure a Meeting, including:

  • Basic Ground Rules
  • Meeting Format
  • Holding the Discussion
  • How to Select Books?
  • Ways to Select 
While Ronnie covered many of the points of Tips for facilitating a book discussion and Tips for taking part in a book discussion, I will certainly pass the article on to her and the rest of the group.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful write up and observations! I'm happy that you included information about the other book clubs, you have such variety to choose from!