BOOKCLUBSBOOKCLUBSBOOKCLUBS–January 2024

By Judy Garrison

It seems like an awful number of people belong to a book club these days. But they are not cut from the same cloth. I have a friend whose Vermont club requires a vote of its members when a new person wants to join. Other groups have set a limit on the number of members. It’s true that the larger the group, the less each person can contribute. Some book clubs meet alternatively at members’ houses, with food and wine provided in profusion. I’ve heard tell that discussion in some settings can migrate to complaints about husbands or community gossip. A lot of clubs make decisions for the entire year at the initial session; others have the monthly host make the book choice. Some have leaders, some have themes or stick to only new fiction or political/historical non-fiction.

LitWits, whose sessions take place at the Andes Public Library and is open to the public, is not even officially a club, but a group. While we do seem to attract and hold women of a certain age, we are totally open to people of all ages, including those who choose to attend only when the book choice strongly appeals to them. In fact, I think I represent everyone when I say we would particularly welcome a new member from a younger, even much younger, generation and of the opposite sex. While I think we are all good at focusing discussion on the book choice of the month (we meet on the first Thursday at 4:30 pm), we bring into our comments personal histories and stories when they relate to and enrich the discussion. In the process we learn more about each other. And feel increasingly connected. For instance, we liked hearing from Suzy Stone, a native of Nantucket, with Coffin family roots, when we talked about The Star Gazer, a woman-centered version of Moby Dick, largely set in Nantucket. Some in our group are so widely read and thoughtful in their comments I would hardly mind if they talked endlessly; but they don’t. Rather the tenor of the group is to encourage all who wish to speak, with generous comments offered on unexpected perceptions. Our most recent gatherings have been composed of 4 to 8, which allows for a richness of exchange, though I do remember one summer group of 14 in the gazebo to be very lively and fun-filled. A different dynamic depending on who is in the group and how many are there.

Some of the books that we’ve read in the past year that I particularly loved I would have never known to try: The Transit of Venus  by Shirley Hazzard; Properties of Thirst  by Marianne Wiggins; This is Happiness  by Niall Williams. And most recently The Sweetness of Water  by Nathan Harris and The Sympathizer  by Viet Thanhg Nguyen.

Others, like Of Human Bondage  by Somerset Maughan, and Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk I’d read years ago, and now totally enjoyed re-reading with new eyes. The group discussion of course piled on insights and perspectives. While we all contribute suggestions that can include recent and older fiction as well as non-fiction (we read less of the latter but share recommendations based on our personal reading that often includes non-fiction), we hear few complaints, though not everyone is going to value the choices equally or finish a book that doesn’t resonate. This isn’t school! And neither is anyone expected to commit to coming to all sessions. All of our choices are culled from the Four County Library System by Pam, our librarian, sometimes including audio and large print versions. Because there are system-wide heavy demands on new releases we always go back at least a couple of years with our selections.

If you would like to know more, you can ask Pam or other staff at the library, or text or give me a call any time:  212-729-7985.~