Thursday, December 31, 2009

Book Club Exchange - Barbara Mead of Reading Group Choices

I am so glad to welcome Barbara Mead from Reading Group Choices to Book Club Exchange, a regular feature on Booking Mama which highlights anything and everything book club-related! I absolutely love getting the scoop on other book clubs, and I know many of you do too. I hope you enjoy this guest post about Barbara's book club experiences through the years. You might even get an idea or two for a future book club pick.

I haven’t thought about this until now -- my first “book club’ started many many years ago when I was growing up outside of Annapolis. The bookmobile visited our neighborhood every third Saturday in the month. So, on that Saturday, my two girlfriends and I would ride our bikes to the corner of Ridout and Holly Drive and wait for the library on wheels. We spent the next 2 hours pulling books from shelves, glancing though them, and talking about them before checking them out. After the bookmobile left, we would ride back to one of our houses and read a little and discuss our books the whole afternoon. After about a week reading our respective books, we’d swap! Just like a grown-up reading group, who knew!

Over the years, I have belonged to 2 reading groups (besides the Amberley Bookmobile Club!) in different locations. Each one has a distinct feel and flavor!

After college and working for 13 years in Annapolis, I got married and moved to Colorado -- knowing no one. Having to find some like-minded friends, I got a job at an independent bookstore – yea! I was in heaven and met so many people who loved books and reading. I joined a book group soon after my employment at Covered Treasures. This group had 12-15 members (women) who were mothers -- except one. Who do you think was the exception – me! The group discussed mostly fiction. We used the reading guides and other materials as a jump-off point – using themes or ideas that helped form our thoughts and conversation. Our conversation topics started with the book and open up to personal and general issues. Being close to the Air Force Academy, some members were married to military officers so book subjects involving war and all its ramification brought personal stories and ideas that I would not ever think about. One member would not read The Lovely Bones because of the opening scene. Due to hints about child abuse, two members had an awful time reading The Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Flavor and Feel! In 1998, we all went to the Steamboat Springs Literary Sojourn. A weekend with book loving friends that met and lunched with E. Anne Proulx, Pam Houston, Natalie Goldberg, and Robert Crais. What a blast!

Maryland called to us again and now we are living in Chester on the Eastern Shore. I joined The Kent Island Book Babes. 14 women – 7 married no children, 1 single, 6 with children. Our ages range from 34-60. We read mostly fiction with a classic and nonfiction thrown in sometimes to push the envelope. Meetings are held once a month at the hostess’ house that picked the book. There is a social hour, then discussion, and then, social again until everyone goes home – sometimes 10 pm, sometimes 1:30 am! As with the Colorado group, we use guides and materials to spark the conversation. And, more than not, the book discussion opens up to personal and world issues. Because of our backgrounds, age, and experiences, the book conversation is always lively. Again, the flavor and feel of each group. Some books we discussed: Atonement by Ian McEwan, Personal History by Katherine Graham, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer, The Sea by John Banville, Ireland by Frank Delaney, Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, Sleeping with Shubert by Bonnie Marson, Mudbound by Hilary Jordan, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland, The Way the Crows Flies by Anne-Marie MacDonald, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, Mister Pip by James Lloyd, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, etc. Because of my job at Reading Group Choices, many authors have called in to discuss their book with us. The Babes are serious about their books but have fun, as well. We have a Happy Hour every June at a bar on the Chesapeake, we have Smut Month (October – not really smut but the book has to be a little racy) and the best event is the Kibbies Award Night. At the holiday party, we award the year’s Best/Worst Book, Best (most liked/Worse (least-liked) Character, Best Discussion, and Best/Worst Sex Scene. A talented and creative member creates statues and gives them out to the members who pick the winners. Three years ago, I got a special award for the Worst Book Ever -- won’t say the title in public. This year, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein picked up:

Best Book

Best Character

Best Discussion

I enjoy my reading group and delight in the friendship and community it brings me. It is so refreshing to know that there still people who find pleasure, adventure, knowledge, self-awareness, and even solace between the covers of a book and who want to share that joy of reading. Happy New Year!


Reading is Barbara's life -- she was born reciting Pat the Bunny! Having worked at a small publisher and three independent bookstores, she decided that she wanted to work for HERSELF! In 2004, Barbara took responsibility for Reading Group Choices and is still having a blast! Working with publishers, authors, reading groups, book stores, libraries – what more can a book-lover ask! She loves her job! When not reading, she watches trash TV. Barbara lives with her husband and cat, Aspen Leif, on an island in the Chesapeake Bay. It sounds fancy but it's not. She just likes saying it!

Make sure you check out Barbara's blog!

Thanks to Barbara for sharing some of her book club experiences with us. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.


Sandy Nawrot said...

See, when I read stuff like this, I feel deprived! How much fun! I am debating with myself on whether to break up with my current group. I've got another one that I'm interested in, but I don't want to be fickle. Maybe I'm waiting for the final straw...

Kaye said...

I wish there were a group like that near me. Alas, here in the podunk part of FL, there is nothing. Zero, nil, nada.

I want to wish you and yours a most happy, healthy and joyous new year. Happy reading and blogging. May all your reads be 5 star!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

The Kent Island Book Babes sounds like a blast! I love the themes and the parties and the awards! Sounds like a book club with the right idea!

bermudaonion said...

This was such a fun post! I love the bookmobile story. I also love the awards her group gives out!

Deborah said...

The origins of the Kent Island Book Babes started with an index card on the library wall. I wanted to meet people when I moved to the island and found a note on the library bulletin board from someone who wanted to start a Book Club. She heard from someone else the next week and we started our club with just 3 people and now it has grown as Barbara mentioned. Start your own club and make it what you want it to be.