Talking about Books in Winnetka

Okay, I admit it, I don’t belong to a book group. Maybe it’s because working at Booklist is like being in a book group 27/7. Since I can’t share any personal experiences, from time to time I’m going to be writing about what goes on in other groups–call them my book group surrogates.

Jane Levine, my Steppenwolf Theatre subscription partner, is head of technical services at Winnetka Northfield Public Library District in Illinois. She also leads a book group that meets monthly and consists of eight-to-ten women in their fifties and sixties. Occasionally someone younger attends. Jane says it’s tricky to select the right books, and any time she reads something she considers whether it would be good for discussion. Her group doesn’t want simple chick lit, but at the same time they don’t want anything too literary; Lloyd Jones’ Mr. Pip wouldn’t work, for example. They like books they’ve heard about but would not necessarily pick up on their own. They like discussing characters and motivation, but not symbolism. 

Jane also says that she’s had the same loyal group for years, with a newcomer now and then.

Is this typical? Are there any book groups out there that have successfully attracted men, and people younger than the Hillary Clinton demographic? If you want to share your book group experiences, add a comment or e-mail me at And if you need ideas for discussable books, check out Jane’s  Fiction Book Club List.



About the Author:

Mary Ellen Quinn is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Librarianship (2014), the former editor of Reference Books Bulletin, and a long-time contributing writer to Booklist.

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