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New stories and new pals headed to Baldwin

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 11, 2018


BIRMINGHAM — When you hear the term “book club,” do you think of giggly women with chardonnay on the sofa?

You’re not alone, but Baldwin Public Library staff thinks they can change that cliché.

“We’re always trying to find ways to get more men into book clubs. Interestingly enough, most book clubs here are women. But we know men read too,” said Maria Williams, the head of adult services at the Baldwin Public Library. “The Books and Brews club definitely helps to get the gents involved.”

The library has several book clubs that cater to a wide range of genres and venues to keep readers engaged in conversation about their favorite works. There’s no age minimum or maximum, and no requirements either: Didn’t finish the book in time? No worries. You’re always welcome.

“The reading experience — how the characters felt and how the reader related to the book — can be very personal,” said librarian Sarah Bowman. “Sharing those responses makes for interesting discussions.”

Bowman hosts the Books and Brews book club that meets at Dick O’Dow’s pub in downtown Birmingham. Williams hosts the Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Alone book club, and there are plenty of others. The Page to Screen book club includes a film screening so participants can compare and contrast the movie to the text — David Benioff’s “25th Hour” will be featured with a screening and a discussion comparing the book to Spike Lee’s film interpretation.

A nonfiction book discussion club is expected to kick off in February at Birmingham Next.

Williams said one of the book clubs, the one that meets Wednesday afternoons at the library, has been thriving for more than 20 years.

“That one tends to be a group of women who are retired, but then in the evening it’s usually younger people who come in for our evening book clubs after work,” she said.

There are no fees or commitments. The idea is just to promote the different ways the library can be a source of entertainment, education and socialization.

“The most gratifying part of hosting a discussion is when attendees start the book discussion with negative feelings about the book and end up changing their minds after hearing different perspectives and interpretations from everyone else,” Lauren Ziolkowski said in a press release. She hosts a monthly book discussion at All Seasons of Birmingham.

“They’re just groups of people who like to read things they might not otherwise choose for themselves,” she said. “It’s a very friendly, low-pressure kind of group.”

Which group is right for you? The library will host a 2019 book club reception at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, to share book club selections for the coming year and highlight other noteworthy reads that will likely prompt great discussions.

To view the library’s full book club schedule, and to see a list of upcoming discussion titles, visit While there, you can also register for group sessions.

The Baldwin Public Library is located at 300 W. Merrill St. in downtown Birmingham.