Twenty-six Years and Counting of Reading and Conversation
This week I decided to feature a local book club. I absolutely love the book club that I belong to (the West U Wonders) and thought it would be fun to interview some members of another book club and learn about their traditions and how they operate. Every book group ends up with defined rules and processes, and I am always interested in what those are. Moreover, people wanting to form a new book club - or existing book clubs who want to vary up their practices - can find some useful ideas and/or new ways to run their meetings.
I spoke to Mary Jo Cantu, Susie Davidson and Michelle DeVoe McIntyre about their longstanding book club whose members mainly reside in West U, River Oaks and Memorial. I hope you enjoy learning about this fabulous book club as much as I did!
Does your book club have a name?
We don’t really have a name, but some members refer to us informally as the “Susie Davidson Book Club.”
Tell me about your book club. How many members are there? How often do you meet? Do you do other things together as a group in addition to book club?
The size of our book club has varied over the years. Currently, we have 29 members, and we meet monthly except for July. We combine November and December into one holiday book club meeting in December. Over the years, our book club has gone to movies together (if one of our selected books was made into a movie), and occasionally, we will meet up at a book signing event at a local independent bookstore. We also have local authors visit and discuss their books when possible, and we have had authors conference in to our meetings.
Is there something in particular that makes your group special to you?
This group has gone through so many major life cycle events together. The make-up of the group has changed over the years, but the core group has been together for over 26 years. That core group mainly consisted of Susie’s law school friends, and the group quickly expanded to include other friends and work colleagues.
How long has your book club been together?
The book club started in January 1993, and we have met continuously since that time.
Can you tell me about your meetings? Do you have any special traditions?
Our meetings are typically held at a member’s home. We have dinner, hold our book discussion, and then select the book for next month. On occasion, we have met at local restaurants.
What kinds of books does your group like to read?
Over the years, we have read a large variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, memoirs, biographies, auto-biographies and some of the classics.
What have been some of your favorite reads and least favorite reads?
It is hard to say as we have read so many books over the last 26 years, but recent favorites include An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. The least favorite read of the group was definitely Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
What books have generated the most discussion?
Two of the books in recent years that resulted in spirited discussions were Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance.
Does everyone in the group typically read the book that is selected?
It really depends on the book selected and the particular month as some months are busier for everyone than others. Only rarely does everyone read the book, but enough people read the selection each month to allow for an interesting discussion. The nice thing about our book club is that everyone is always welcome, whether or not they have read the selected book that particular month!
How do you choose what you will read next? Is it done monthly or set out farther in advance? Any rules about what can be included?
Our book club has a very interesting way that we select the books that we read each month. We used to have a rule way back when that we would not choose a book that someone in the group had already read, nor would we read the same author twice, but those rules disappeared several years ago. Now, it is actually kind of nice if someone in the group has read the book to give it an endorsement so to speak. We are all so busy now for a variety of reasons, and it is nice to have someone actually recommend a book that they enjoyed.
In selecting a book each month, we take nominations from our members. In the past, members would bring “show and tell” books to talk up their nominee. Now, in the digital age we live in, many members just look up a book on their iPad and read from an online description. Susie typically summarizes all of our nominees in a somewhat humorous way (Mary Jo describes her as their “benign dictator”) and some members have said over the years that Susie sometimes sways the vote with her book descriptions described by Michelle as told “in a funny, pithy way.”
We have a very elaborate voting system to select our book each month. We have two rounds of voting, and each member get two votes the first round. The two top vote getters make it to the final round, and each member gets one vote to decide the final choice.
Feel free to comment below with your book club’s fun traditions or favorite reading choices. I love hearing how other groups function.
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