There were a couple of dissenters at the Washington Public Library’s Wednesday Book Club meeting in December.
After starting to read the selection, “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles, they found that they just didn’t like it. So they set it aside and moved on.
The majority of the group, however, not only enjoyed the book, they said it was their favorite of the 120 they have read since first meeting in January 2009.
At the book club meeting, the dissenters didn’t hesitate to note their dislike of the book, and the rest of the group welcomed their comments.
This wasn’t the first time in the 10 years of this Wednesday Book Club that there have been readers who didn’t like a selected book, and it won’t be the last time, said Nelson Appell, the library clerk who moderates the group.
“That’s OK,” he said, smiling. “It always makes for a better discussion.”
Members don’t need to feel any pressure to continue reading a book they don’t like, since there are no tests to take or book reports due. Although some members did note that there have been books that they didn’t like initially but that ended up liking more as they continued reading.
“All I ask is that you still come and tell us why you didn’t like it,” said Appell.
Books Provided by Library
The Wednesday Book Club is one of four offered at Washington Public Library. It meets the third Wednesday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the meeting room by the front door.
There also are two book clubs that meet on Mondays: The Daytime Book Club meets the second Monday from 10 to 11 a.m., and the Literary Classics Book Club meets the third Monday from 7 to 8 p.m.
The newest is a Mystery Book Club that meets the third Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m.
All of the book clubs provide copies of the books to club members through Missouri Evergreen, a statewide consortium that Washington and Scenic Regional libraries joined five years ago. The consortium is a group of public libraries that combine catalogs on the same software, allowing their patrons to borrow books from any of the libraries.
“That was a game changer for us,” said Appell. “It really opened up what books we can read.”
Prior to joining Missouri Evergreen, the book clubs were limited to reading older titles, he said, explaining they weren’t able to get enough copies of any books that were just a year or so old.
“We are growing,” said Appell. “There are more than 100 branches across the state that are part of the consortium with 2.5 million items now available. We are approaching the second largest system in the state.”
The first book the Wednesday Book Club read in January 2009, for example, was “The Red Tent,” by Anita Diamant, which was published in 1997.
The December book, “A Gentleman in Moscow,” was published in 2016.
Members of the Wednesday Book Club nominate books that they want the group to read, and almost always those are taken up, said Appell. He also looks through lists and compiles a variety that he thinks the group will be interested in and then puts it to a vote of the members.
“We try to choose books that have some discussion meat to them,” said Appell. “Some books you can read, and they’re great stories, but when you get to the end, there isn’t a lot to discuss. But we’re looking for some subject matter or themes that make it good for a discussion group to talk over.”
Advantages to Reading as Part of a Book Club
There are several advantages of reading a book as part of a book club, including finding a deeper appreciation for a particular book or different perspectives on a subject, but members of the Wednesday Book Club said one of the reasons they continue to come back month after month is that it encourages them to read good books that they might otherwise never pick up because they are outside their normal reading pattern.
“Quite a few people have joined the club so they will read more widely,” said Appell.
Having both women and men in the club helps in that respect, some members noted. Appell agreed.
“Everyone notices different things about a book, so when you sit down with a group of 12 to 15 people and all talk about it, there’s always people noticing things that you didn’t,” he said.
Beyond reading, however, being part of a book club provides another advantage — social time. It gets people interacting with others face-to-face.
“There is a loneliness epidemic that you read about, and a book club is one more way to help combat that,” said Appell. “People who come to a book club have a built in network of people they get to know and they don’t just get to know each other for the books they like to read. People bring pictures of their babies, their grandchildren, they share food and recipes, and they become friends.”
Members of the Wednesday Book Club come from Washington, Union, New Haven, Labadie and other parts of the county. The group averages 12 to 15 people attending each month, most of them 40 years and older.
“I almost always have to cut off discussion,” said Appell, who spends the last minutes of each meeting collecting the old books and distributing the new books. “They like the discussion.”
Even after the meeting is over, he said, several members linger in the parking lot still talking, either about books or catching up on other things.
Before they get into the book discussion, members of the Wednesday Book Club typically begin each meeting with some sort of video connection. In December, they watched a YouTube video of author Amor Towles answering questions about his book.
In other cases, the group has watched an excerpt of a TV show that is related to their book selection, like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” or one of the other book clubs has even conducted a Skype video chat with an author.
What’s Up Next?
All of the Washington book clubs keep lists of their upcoming book selections posted on fliers in the hallway near the first-floor circulation desk. Everyone is welcome to take one of the fliers, even if they never plan to attend one of the meetings.
“A lot of people use those lists for book recommendations,” said Appell.
There also are members who can’t attend all of the monthly book club meetings, so they read along with the group and then just attend when they are able to.
See sidebar for the list of Washington book clubs upcoming selections.
Although anytime of year is great to be reading, winter months when people typically spend more time indoors is a popular time for hunkering down with a good book.
“I encourage people to keep reading,” said Appell. “It’s an empathy building machine. It’s a way to widen your perspective on the world and participate in the community.”
Scenic Regional Library Book Clubs
Scenic Regional Library also offers a slew of book clubs that meet at various times at each of its branches, as well as more than 70 Book Club Kits that are available for groups to check out on their own.
Following is a list of Scenic Regional book club meeting times:
New Haven — Book club meets the fourth Wednesday, 5 p.m., at 200 Douglas St., New Haven. Upcoming books include “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah for Jan. 23; “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hinton for Feb. 27; “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin for March 27; “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate for April 24; “There, There” by Thommy Orange for May 22; and “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens for June 26.
Owensville — Tea Time Travelers Book Club meets the third Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., 503 Olive St., Owensville. Upcoming books include “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery for Jan. 15; something from the romance genre for February, religious fiction for March, fantasy for April, thriller for May and classic for June.
Pacific — Book club meets the second Tuesday at 6 p.m., 111 Lamar Parkway, Pacific. Upcoming books include “Brit Marie Was Here” by Fredrick Backman for Feb. 12; “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann for March 12; “Faithful” by Alice Hoffman for April 9; “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” by John Boyne for May 14; and “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate for June 11.
St. Clair — Adult Book Club meets the fourth Thursday at 2 p.m., 515 E. Springfield Road, St. Clair. Upcoming books include “Behind Closed Doors” by B.A. Paris for Jan. 24; “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng for Feb. 28; “The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware for March 28; “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah for April 25; “The Silent Sister” by Diane Chamberlain for May 25; and “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed” for June 27.
Union — Hooked on Books club meets the third Thursday at 6 p.m., 308 Hawthorne Drive, Union. Upcoming books include “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson for Jan. 17; and “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff for Feb. 21.
For more information on the book clubs offered at Scenic Regional Library branches, go to scenicregional.org and under the “How Do I” tab, select “Find a Book Club.” For more information on the Book Club Kits, go to scenicregional.org/bookclubbooks/, or contact Phil Schroeder, 636-583-0652, ext. 108, or email@example.com.