Sharing Stories: Clubs allow friends to bond over books

 By Kaitlin Bushinski for the Dominion Post, Life and Leisure section, 1-E, Sunday November 8, 2009

For those seeking more active engagement with literature, starting a book club can be a fun and rewarding way to do just that, while meeting new people and challenging oneself intellectually, say lit lovers.
 
According to club veterans, book clubs are also low-cost and easy to organize. All it takes is one person, a plan and a little advertising to get it off the ground.
 
Amber Johns, the director of community relations for the Morgantown Library System, is starting a Jane Austen-themed book club that will have its first meeting in February.
 
“We were trying to figure out a new approach to book clubs, and Jane Austen is so popular right now, so we decided to see if people would be interested in reading her,” Johns said.
 
Her advice for someone starting a book club?
 
“Pick something that you’re interested in, whether it’s a specific topic like our Jane Austen book club or something that’s really broad,” Johns said.
 
As for a meeting place, Johns said people meet at a variety of places including a different restaurant every month, coffee shops, or the library’s meeting room.
 
“A lot of local businesses like the library or the Blue Moose [Café] have bulletin boards; you can stick a flier up there,” Johns said.
 
She also recommended bulletin boards in West Virginia University buildings, the campus newspaper and Craigslist as possible places to advertise. The Dominion Post classifieds offers the perfect place to start soliciting like-minded readers in our community. To place an ad, or for more information, call 304-291-9430 or email [email protected].
 
“If you can [advertise in] as many places as possible you’ll get a diverse response,” Johns said.
 
Perhaps the most difficult part of organizing a book club is not choosing a book, but leading group discussion. Johns said that preparation is key to a good club meeting.
 
“If you’re the leader of the book club, come to the meeting prepared with a few questions that you’d like people to discuss, even if you don’t have a specific answer for them yourself,” Johns said.
 
“A great thing to bring into the book club would be a few quotes from the book that touched you in some way,” she said, adding: “It doesn’t hurt to brush up on the history of the author, either. It’s good to come to the meeting with as much information as you can.”
 
While John’s club will center around a particular author, another local book club, the Freethinkers Morgantown Book Club, centers around a philosophy.
 
Neece Campione is the organizer for the Freethinkers. Recent books her club has read include Michael Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things,” Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason,” and “Atheist Universe” by David Mills.
The club is currently reading “Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language” by Robert Gula.
 
Campione said the club has a core membership of 6-10 people that meet monthly at the Blue Moose Café. Other members follow an online discussion board dedicated to the book club.
 
“It’s more than just reading,” Campione said about the book club experience, “it’s being able to share a good book with like-minded people. It’s also very social.”
 
Campione also offered advice to someone starting her own book club, including bringing friends to the first few meetings to avoid sitting alone.
 
“Expect that it’s going to take some time [to grow]”, Campione said. Also, she said, “You do need someone to moderate [the discussion]” since it can “go off on a weird tangent.”
 
However, the most important thing, Campione said, is to “Let the club evolve naturally,” and if members have different interests, let them branch off and start their own groups.
 
If starting your own club feels like a bit much for you, try checking out your favorite book store. Stop by Barnes and Noble at University Town Centre, The Bookshelf on Green Bag Road or Books-A-Million at Glenmark Centre and ask if they host any clubs, or have information about existing ones. Many stores have several in-house sponsored clubs, which vary by genre – Christian-themed reading, nonfiction clubs, popular fiction clubs and even clubs for young adults. Often, the clubs’ current picks are displayed prominently in the store – just browse the selections, see what fits your fancy, and ask.
 
For More Information about area book clubs, try calling one of these local book stores:
  • Barnes & Noble, University Town Centre, 304-599-1294
  • The Bookshelf on Green Bag Road, 304-599-4601
  • Books-A-Million, Glenmark Centre, 304-284-8604
FOR MORE information about the upcoming Jane Austin Book Club, call the Morgantown Public Library at 304-291-7425. The library has an “RSVP” list for people interested in the club.
 
FOR MORE information about the Freethinkers Morgantown Book Club, contact Neece Campione at [email protected]. The club’s next meeting is 5pm November 15 at the Blue Moose Café in Morgantown.