Library Offers Book Club Discussions
Friday, November 4th, 2011
Reading is not a team sport. When a reader finishes a troublesome passage, no one cheers him on. When one comes across a particularly beautiful turn of phrase that makes her view something ordinary as suddenly extraordinary, she rarely gets to share that joy. When a book is poignant, life-changing, perspective-shifting, finely-crafted, despicable, heart-breaking, world-shaking, confusing or just plain begging for discussion, a reader is sometimes left adrift, having no one with whom to share the joys and challenges of a particular tome. That is where book clubs come in.
At West Virginia Wesleyan, the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library sponsors a book discussion group that is open to all interested individuals, both from the College and the community. “People come to the group from all different backgrounds and perspectives,” said Beth Rogers, coordinator of reference, instruction and outreach at the library.
As the group’s discussion moderator, Rogers selects books for discussion that she hopes will speak to those different backgrounds, while perhaps opening up some new perspectives. “I do try to pick books that will appeal to different people,” she said. “But I also believe that there is something to reading outside of your comfort zone that is good for you, like trying new foods. It allows you to explore new genres and discover new authors. It forces you to think critically, and offers insight into psychologies and worlds with which you might not be familiar.”
The books that Rogers selects run the gamut, from classics like Catcher in the Rye to literary fiction like The Marrowbone Marble Company, from biographies like Keith Richards’ Life to horror like The Monstrumologist. Rogers strives to fill the calendar with interesting books that will spark lively discussions. “We have had some really great discussions,” she said. “You and I could read the same book, and come away with very different interpretations. We can discuss it in the group, and wonder if we have even read the same book.”
Some books have drawn more of a crowd than others, and some naturally provoke dialog more easily than others. Sometimes, Rogers will do research beforehand or come prepared with a few questions to get the conversation rolling, if she foresees that a particular title may create a challenge. “It is extremely rare that everyone likes a book, and each discussion is different. Sometimes I know that a book will be a challenge, and other times I may not see the issues coming because, again, we all read from a different perspective.”
“Great books stand up to alternate readings, they stand up to cultural evolution and are relevant today,” Rogers said. “The best books, we can go back to again and again and experience something completely different. The best books make us look inside ourselves.”
The discussions last from 45 minutes to an hour, and always remain friendly, even when the book or themes being discussed are of a sensitive nature. “Books can be a good way to start uncomfortable conversations in a non-threatening way,” Rogers said. “I hope people who come will be respectful of the boundaries that we have informally drawn. We really have created a safe space for discussion.”
That said, Rogers and the group welcome new participants and hope that others will join in to lend their ideas and perspectives. While reading may never be a team sport, it can at least be a bit more participatory and, therefore, an enriching experience. “I want the discussion to make people think and be challenged, but also to be entertained,” Rogers said. “My goal is to bring people and books together in new and unusual ways and also to push them beyond their own self-defined values.”
The Book Discussion Group Series is free and open to the public. The next discussion will be November 28 at 7 p.m. at the Daily Grind, and will feature The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor. For more information, contact Beth Rogers at (304) 473-8013 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or search “Buckhannon Book Discussion Group” on Facebook.
November The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor
December Heresy by S.J. Parris
January The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
February Life by Keith Richards
March The Terror by Dan Simmons
April Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger