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A Book Club Q & A: Visiting with a Highly Entertaining Group

Cindy Burnett
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Marlin Interruption Club

Cindy Burnett attended a meeting of the Marlin Interruption Club: Housing Chapter and loved meeting the members. Pictured are (front row, from left) Connie Wallace, Marian Catechis, Liz Woodard; (back row, from left) Donna Kleist, Meredith Cocke, Deborah Dunkum. Not pictured: Olivia Fisher, Ruth Duenser and Melva Meronek.

One of my favorite things to do is speak to groups about book recommendations. In the past two weeks, I have spoken to three groups – a book club, a woman’s group meeting, and a National Charity League meeting – and highlighted some of my favorite reads. All three groups were very welcoming, and I enjoyed getting to know individuals in each group and had fun answering their questions after I completed my presentation.

Because the book club was a smaller group than the other two, the entire talk was more interactive as I made my way through the titles I was recommending (and one title was quickly skipped over because the group had already read it as I mention below). I loved eating lunch with these women and hearing their stories about the group and the various books they had read over the years. As I discussed in my article from several weeks ago, there is great power in both stories themselves and the ability for those stories to bring people together. This fabulous book club formed because of their love of reading and stories, and I am excited to share their story with you.

Does your book club have a name?

Our book club is entitled the Marlin Interruption Club: Houston Chapter. The name comes from an inside joke that we share, and it fits because the members of the group interrupt each other frequently.

How long has your book club been together?

We formed this book club in 2002 so we have been together for 18 years.

Tell me about your book club. How many members are there? How often do you meet? 

We currently have nine members though we have had more in the past.  We usually meet once a month to discuss our latest book club selection. Because everyone’s schedules are more erratic, the book club rarely meets in the summer.

Is there something in particular that makes your group special to you?

The original members of the book club were all docents or volunteers at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston - some of us had been volunteering there since the mid-1980s. A group of us discovered a shared love of reading so we decided to form this book club. As we add members over the years, we do not require them to be volunteers at the MFAH!

Can you tell me about your meetings? Do you have any special traditions?

Our meetings are held at lunchtime on the third Friday of the month, and we rotate who hosts. For our December meeting, we include our significant others and meet in the evening. We choose a book that will appeal to everyone (both women and men) and usually have a lively discussion. We used to drink wine at our Friday lunch events but not so much anymore because everyone was too tired when we left the meeting.

What kinds of books does your group like to read?

While we read a wide variety of genres, our favorites are nonfiction, fiction and historical fiction, particularly World War II.

What have been some of your favorite reads?

The group really liked Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, What’s So Great About America? by Dinesh D’Souza, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. 

Does everyone in the group typically read the book that is selected? Any books you all didn’t love? I know when I brought out The Library Book by Susan Orlean, there was a lot of groaning…. 

Our book club did not like The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Occasionally, a member doesn’t like the particular selection so she will not finish it, but most of the time everyone reads the entire book. We engage in a lively and boisterous discussion each month, and no one shows up unprepared.

What books have generated the most discussion?

The books we discussed the most were The Rent Collector by Camron Wright and The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo. Both books really made the group think, and we spoke about them at length. Those books also appealed to everyone because they both involve strong women.

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?

The person who is hosting that month chooses the book. However, we have several rules that must be followed. A book cannot be longer than 350 pages; the person selecting a book must have read it first before choosing it; and the group prefers books that are paperbacks and are available on audio.

We used to plan almost a year out, but in recent times we are lucky to plan two months ahead. Our next selections are The Body in the Castle Well by Martin Walker for our February gathering and Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep for our March meeting. 

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram or Cindy’s Reading Recs.

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