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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
April 2018
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Golden Pages
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Generation Boomer

Senior Spectrum Publications

This 'n That
by Anne Vargas
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“Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

Anne Vargas
Anne Vargas
I love my bjook club

Although it’s not always easy to juggle the time (or read that many books) I am lucky enough to belong to three book clubs. Just as the members themselves differ from one another in personality, so do the groups. There are varying merits, formats, and viewpoints in each and I wouldn’t want to give up any one of them.

Two of the groups meet on specified dates on the calendar; the third “floats” and meets on whatever day works best for the hostess. One venue consistently starts at 3 p.m. with book discussion followed by “happy hour” refreshments. The second group meets for brunch or lunch or afternoon tea, depending on what the hostess prefers. The third group always meets for dinner. That hostess provides the entree and everyone else brings appetizers (deemed “appies”), salads, desserts and wine, the latter assuredly being a common denominator in all three groups.

“What's the point of
having a book club
if you don't get to
eat brownies and
drink wine?”

Author Kristin Hannah said: “Books + Friendship = Book Club.” I would elaborate by adding: Book Club Friendships = comfort zone = trust = safety = honesty = meaningful conversation.

relationships

In each case, the hostesses pick the book. There are really no rules or guidelines about that so the range of what we read is across-the-board. Without question, we end up reading books we probably would not have read otherwise, and the best part is talking about it and exchanging opinions. When discussing a book with a group, one of the noteworthy things is the different points of view; sort of the literary equivalent of “one person’s ceiling is another person’s floor.” Within that mentioned comfort zone, we can feel free to say we don’t care for a book that others may be enthusiastic about without worrying about being offensive; respecting disparities is essential for good group dynamics.

I love my bjook club

Although book preferences tend to be slightly different between the groups, all of them read both fiction and nonfiction and over the years we’ve read books ranging from “Wolf Hall” to “The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.” All three groups recently selected A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Toles, which everyone liked. One hostess opted to serve Russian fare for dinner which added greatly to the ambiance and fun.”

A few years ago, I chose The Faith Club, a book about three women; Jewish, Christian and Muslim, who form a friendship on the playground and decide to write something for their children to explain the difference in their religious beliefs. In the process, they end up discovering a great deal about themselves.

read wine labels

The book was enlightening and led an in-depth discussion about what, if any religious values we have or had, whether any of us were practicing a faith and if we had abandoned one, why. It was long and animated, the kind of discussion one can have only with people with whom you feel comfortable.

“What happens at Book
Club stays at Book Club,
no matter how much
wine we drink or how
many husbands we
plot to do away with.”
Betsy O’Connor

There have been other meaningful discussions, as well “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova addresses the reality and challenges of Alzheimer’s, something too many of us are familiar with in varying degrees. “Dreamland, the True Tale of the America’s Opiate Epidemic” by Sam Quinones was recently read by one group and will be my choice for the other two; it’s been deemed a book that everyone in America needs to read. That discussion led to disclosures about personal associations with addictions and the stigma seemingly attached to that. Why is it that diseases of the body can be discussed openly in today’s world but any mention of diseases of the mind (including addictions) are avoided? This is something I can more than relate to.

Our daughter’s heartbreaking battle with alcoholism was very public news since she is a broadcast journalist and a somewhat public figure. Having such personal information widely known was difficult and certainly wouldn’t have been our choice, so I can understand other families’ reluctance to talk about similar situations but book club friends were “there for me” through the entire painful process.

“Real friends can
see your pain behind
that silent smile on
your face”

Our daughter subsequently wrote a book, Between Breaths, about her horrifying descent to the depths of alcohol addiction and her subsequent amazing ascent to recovery. It won the Best First Book award from the Books for a Better Life organization and was on the NY Times Best Seller list for four weeks. She now travels extensively on the lecture circuit talking about her experience as well as the importance of talking about it. She has touched many lives in ways she never anticipated. We are very proud of her and have learned to feel comfortable addressing the topic freely with others; a recipe for further growth. And my recipe for meaningful friendships?

Get thee to a book club.

reading a book

Your story will never
end as long as your
chapters are shared”
~~ Viola Shipman, The Charm Bracelet