Whether you read bestsellers, award winners, nonfiction, classic literature, poetry, young adult novels, animé or science fiction, there is probably a book club for you in La Plata County.
“We have a group that only reads young-adult books, a couple of Buddhist meditation groups, some that only read nonfiction,” said Helen Gregory, a bookseller at Maria’s Bookshop. “Some are geared around dinner and drinking, some are more social and others really want to delve into a subject.”
While there is no database to determine just how many book clubs meet in the area, Maria’s Bookshop provides a good peek into what’s happening on that front. Because it offers a 15 percent discount on selected reads to book clubs that register with the store, there’s a financial benefit for members if the club registers. And that registry is currently bursting at the seams with 220 registered clubs, Gregory said.
“Of course, they’re not all necessarily active at this time,” she said. “It sort of goes in waves. But there are so many, that at the front of the store, we put out books other clubs are reading as suggestions.”
While the traditional image of a book club is a group of women, and a predominant number are all female, that image is far from the only permutation that residents have created to have a good conversation about a book and the issues it raises.
There are all-male groups, such as Dave Clark’s, or co-ed ones, like the Cherry Creek Book Club. Then there are neighborhood groups, including Los Ranchitos, Edgemont and Sweetwater Springs, mother-daughter gatherings and groups organized around their church, workplace or nonprofit. Some are by invitation only, others are open, some are not accepting new members. The two oldest clubs, Reading Club of Durango, founded in 1882, and Tuesday Literary Club, dating back to 1938, don’t even read the same book but have programs on a selected theme.
And boy, do they have fun with their names – Bodacious Babes; Drinking Club with a Reading Problem; Novel Neighbors; Power of 10: Mommy’s Little Secret; Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants; Wine and Words; Wine, Women and Words; the Women’s Book and Cocktail Society; and the Yarnspinners. Really, any pun on reading, books and libations will do.
The Lavenia McCoy Public Library in Bayfield provides support and materials to clubs with its book club kits, including six to eight copies of the selected book. It sponsors its own club, Bookmarks, whose favorite book to date has been Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, said Karen Lemke, who is the primary organizer of the book club and kits.
In September, the library is also starting an adult/child book club – it can be parent and child, grandparent and child or whatever adult in a child’s life wants to encourage their reading, she said. The first selection, perfect for a summer reading list, is Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
About three years ago, avid reader Dr. David Clark thought he’d like to form a group to have discussions about books. The group now numbers about 12, with anywhere from six to eight generally attending the bimonthly meetings.
“I looked around and found some really intelligent people I liked,” he said.
It turned out Clark wasn’t the only man looking for a place to talk about what he was reading.
“I have always read everything I could get my hands on,” said Dr. Paul Dvirnak, who retired from his orthopedic surgery practice in December. Since his retirement, he’s been averaging about three books a week but says he hasn’t sacrificed backcountry skiing to his literary passion. “I didn’t know there were so many guys like this. Sometimes, a book continues to challenge after talking about it.”
Clark generally picks possible reads for the group, with voting to select the final choices, although occasionally another member makes a recommendation.
“We read mostly fiction and keep trying to expand into different genres, different areas,” Clark said at the group’s April meeting. “We read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as science fiction, but it was really as much a comedy because I was accused of picking too many serious books.”
Among recent reads were The Border Trilogy; Driftless; Gilead; The Samurai; Fathers, Sons and Brothers; and Sarah’s Key. A particular favorite was Hannah Coulter: A Novel by Wendell Berry.
Clark facilitates the discussion with background information about the genre, the author and other facts that help put a book in perspective.
April’s book was Dissolution: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery by C.J. Sansom.
“The only way to teach history is with books like this,” attorney Ted Wright said. “If we had to read a textbook, we wouldn’t have gotten the sense of what life was like as we did in this book.”
In the neighborhood
The Falls Creek Ranch Book Club meets monthly with reads selected by vote after each member submits several for consideration. They aren’t afraid to vary the format.
“This month, we invited the guys, so we picked Dead Run, which we thought they would enjoy,” member K Redford said.
Nancy Peake, who has taken on the responsibility to keep the group organized, said a book exchange is held in December when members bring a wrapped book they have enjoyed, and everyone picks one off the table to take home. They have also had a baby-book shower for a member who was having her first child, which brought up memories and a discussion of its own.
“We have terrific food,” Peake said, “and often it’s a match for the book. We brought Italian for The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken, and when we read a book with a lot of chocolate, everything we had included chocolate, even the martinis.”
In June, the club will have its first Skype meeting with an author. Ellen Baker, author of Keeping the House, was the college roommate of a member.
The Bookworms, who meet at Christ the King Lutheran Church, don’t select books on religious themes, organizer Stella Welcher said.
“But it does happen,” she said, “a lot of books, even though they’re not intended to be religious, do have a spiritual aspect. All the books, though, say something we can learn from.”
Book clubs also attract all ages. Kids’ Lit Book Club is moms and their children, while the Rebel Alliance is made up of about seven recent Fort Lewis College graduates, ages 23 to 27.
“We recently read The Devil All The Time,” said member Jaime Cary, who’s also a bookseller at Maria’s. “It’s whacked, and it’s not for everyone, but we really enjoyed it.”
Her club takes turns each month selecting what will be read, bringing in five books for a vote.
Think we have enough book clubs? Think again.
“I’d love to start a cookbook club,” Maria’s bookseller and dance teacher Suzy DiSanto said. “We could each cook one thing from the selected cookbook for meetings.”