Bookworms building bonds

By: Jennie Miller | C&G Newspapers | Published March 9, 2011

 Cynthia ZurSchmiede leads a book club discussion about “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel, which evolved into a talk about Roman Catholic Church leadership.

Cynthia ZurSchmiede leads a book club discussion about “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel, which evolved into a talk about Roman Catholic Church leadership.

Photo by Edward Osinski

Sticking your nose in a book doesn’t have to be a solitary activity, as more and more avid readers are banding together to share in their common interest.

Book clubs are ever present in today’s society, with readers young and old joining groups offered in their communities and forming their own tight-knit circles.

Kim Eberhardt of Ferndale put feelers out to her friends a year and a half ago and was surprised at how eager those she knew were about the idea. It’s about the books, but it’s also about socializing, using a common interest as a springboard.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to sort of see my friends on a regular basis — a way for me to regularly connect and catch up,” Eberhardt said. “But I also thought it would be a fun intellectual endeavor to have thoughtful discussions about books. When you read a book and you finish it, you automatically want to talk about it (and say) ‘I liked this,’ or ‘I didn’t like this,’ or ‘Why did this character do that?’ I wanted to have a group of people I could get together with.”

Libraries all over the region are offer their own book clubs for local residents. While many seem to attract predominantly women, there are those offered specifically for men, such as at Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham, which has a book club for men and their sons.

Eberhardt’s group has doubled in size over the 19 months since its inception, with members bringing other friends and introducing them to those already involved.

“(When) I had the idea for it, I really didn’t know if anyone would be interested in doing it,” Eberhardt said. “I put it out there to my friends who I knew were avid readers and gauged their interest. … One of the best parts about it (is) I’ve had the chance to meet other people and make new friends. It also brings in different perspectives, which is great.”

Eberhardt’s group meets every six-eight weeks at her Ferndale home. Participants take turns selecting each book, and that person is also in charge of bringing appetizers the night they discuss their selection.

“It really guarantees that someone gets to read at least one book they’re really interested in reading,” she explained. “It creates more variety, more diversity in what we’re reading.”

Over the course of the last year or so, the club has read “Water for Elephants,” “The Road,” “Little Bee,” “The Help,” “Shutter Island,” “Middlesex,” “My Sister’s Keeper,” “Catcher in the Rye,” “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Revolutionary Road,” “The Glass Castle” and others.

“We always pick the next book and the book after that, so we always have our backup book selected,” Eberhardt explained. “So if someone finishes Book A they can move on to Book B, even if it’s before we’ve met to discuss Book A.”

There are no guidelines or criteria for selecting a book except that it be one that generates thoughtful discussion.

“Chick lit (is) fun to read, but there’s no real considerable conflict or large social problem,” Eberhardt said.

Individual book clubs and those offered at libraries seem to be gaining momentum these days. A book club offered at the Grosse Pointe Public Library is so popular that there is a three-year waiting list, according to Cynthia ZurSchmiede.

The monthly book club offered by the Warren Public Library had to be moved to the conference room in the Warren Civic Center because it grew so large.

“It must be about 16 or so members,” said Oksana Urban, branch librarian supervisor, adding that it’s currently in its sixth year, and library patrons really seem to enjoy it. “It’s an exchange of ideas, and they have an opportunity to voice their opinion about what they read and how they interpret the story. … It motivates people to read, and it’s a social event for them, as well. They enjoy listening to what other people have to add about a particular title.”

For more information about a book club near you, call your local library or visit its website.