By Carole Keily
Going to book club often means getting together with like-minded people to discuss a book the group has
chosen. There’s usually food and drink involved and lots of talking. We reached out to a few area book club members to find out what their group does, and the connections they’ve made, when they “go to book club.”
A Common Work Bond
Former Prince William business owner Debbie Mullan and her friend Terri Rittenhouse of Manassas are members of a book club celebrating its 14th anniversary this month.
“Our book club started because of a conversation Terri and I had years ago,” said Mullan. “We included friends that were in the banking/mortgage business because that’s primarily what we’d end up talking about–other than the book, of course. Since 2004, we have become close and comfortable with each other.”
Their book club has read more than 80 books together. When they read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, two of the members arrived at a meeting dressed as characters from the book, surprising and delighting everyone.
This book club meets in members’ homes every other month for dinner on Saturday evenings. The six members each host one meeting every year. After catching up with one another and eating a delicious meal, they talk about the book–although sometimes they have to remind themselves to discuss the book.
The hostess chooses the next book the club will read.
“Some of us have retired, so we seem rarely to speak of work anymore. Now there is more interest in eating and discussing the joys of aging, politics and the books we’ve read,” said Mullan.
Most Recent Book: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Neighborhood Book Clubs
The MF Bookers in Gainesville have met every month since 2011. The club takes its name from the neighborhood, Morris Farms, where most of the 13 members live.
This group also starts out their meetings with socializing, talks about the book, and then they eat. “We have spent as little as five minutes discussing the book or as long as thirty minutes,” member Beth Anderson said.
Although members take turns hosting book club, one member always hosts the December meeting, which features a cookie exchange and brunch for dinner. Sometimes members have tied the food served to the story they’ve just read. When the group read Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith, they enjoyed a variety of teas and tea cakes as they discussed the book.
Member Tammy Hinkle said, “I am an avid reader. Being a member of a book club where someone else picks the book each month has been a great experience. I have found stories I love that I might not have ever picked up on my own and new authors whose works I can’t put down.
“I love reading, which is a major bonus to being in a book club, but really book club is more about the connections I have made and the time I have spent with friends,” said Anderson.
Most Recent Book: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
Another Gainesville book club, this one in the Heritage Hunt neighborhood, has been meeting for ten years. The club’s members were mainly a group of hikers who wanted to continue getting together in the winter, so they formed a book club that meets on Thursday afternoons once a month. Each spring, they
choose books and meeting hostesses for the next year.
Member Judy Smith recalled that one of the club’s most memorable meetings featured a discussion of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. “The book deals with the original line of stem cell research and the ethical issues involved,” said Smith. “One of our members had been a scientist involved in this research; she brought a wealth of information and added depth to our insights. Another memorable book discussion was On the Wings of Morning with noted local author Dan Verner. It was a tremendous experience interacting with Dan as he enlightened us about the novel and his role as an author.”
“Our group is enriched by many different points of view, but our love of books unites us,” continued Smith. “We often go on excursions to extend our reading. After we read My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, a few of us went to Washington,DC to hear her book talk. Last year we read Notorious RBG, the biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and enjoyed the film RBG at the Angelika Film Center. We all agree that our book group is one of the highlights of our time together each month.”
Most Recent Book: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
A More Structured Approach
Many book clubs have a fluid setting, with conversation topics bouncing around between the book, members catching up with one another, and enjoying a meal or refreshments. Lindajo Marshalonis of Manassas Park is a member of a book club with a more structured approach to meetings.
Marshalonis’s book club meets the third Sunday of each month in members’ homes. A facilitator greets members as they “check in” at the start of the meeting, where members have 10-15 minutes to catch up. Then the discussion moves on to the book the club has just read with the facilitator leading the discussion. The facilitator is responsible for researching information about the author and the book and keeps the discussion on track. After the discussion is complete, the host serves dinner.
In keeping with their more structured approach, the members of the club vote each month on the next book they’ll read. They also hold a vote on any new members.
This 13-member group has been meeting for 21 years and has taken a few trips together to the beach. One of the members drives down from Pennsylvania each month just for book club.
Most Recent Book: A Criminal Defense by William L. Myers, Jr.
Book Club that Started in the Bookstore
Eight years ago, Bob Chase of Manassas was the store manager of Prospero’s Bookstore in Historic Downtown Manassas when one of his customers suggested that he and Bob start a book club with the store’s customers and employees. The 12 members of the Old Town Book Club have in common their love of books and the desire to socialize, according to Chase’s wife, Inga. This book club even has a few men in the group.
“We meet one Sunday evening a month at Grounds Central Station in Manassas, where we can enjoy delicious sandwiches, hot coffee and scrumptious desserts while we talk,” said Inga Chase. The person who recommended the book for the month also leads the discussion.
The Old Town Book Club has read more than 80 books together. “Curt Schaeffer, author of Escape with One’s Life, came to visit and discussed his book about a plane crash he survived,” said Ms. Chase. “We also recently read Chocolat by Joanne Harris and enjoyed chocolate cake.”
“What is so memorable about this book club is that over the years we have become true friends,” she said. “We sometimes share our deepest darkest personal secrets by making some confessions, which usually relate to the subjects in the book we are discussing. I would say that besides making friends, there is also a therapeutic benefit to belonging to the book club.”
Most Recent Book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Many of the county’s libraries hold monthly book club meetings. Some of the book clubs discuss a specific genre of books. Central Library in Manassas takes it one step further. Members read a book which has been made into a movie, meet at the library to watch the movie on the fourth Monday of the month, and then discuss both.
The library system also offers a book club kit, with 10 books, a discussion guide, author biographies and discussion questions to help get a book club started. Visit pwcgov.org/government/dept/library for more information on the library’s book clubs and Books to Go kits.
Carole Keily (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Prince William Living’s Online Editor. She has been a member of a book club since 2004.