By August 26, 2009 6 Comments Read More →

A Book Club for the Homeless

Last Sunday I watched the CBS television program Sunday Morning and caught an interesting piece on an unusual book club.  Steve Hartman, the reporter, told about Peter, a successful lawyer, who regularly took a morning stroll on the Boston Commons, where he often encountered a homeless man named Rob.  The two men engaged in conversation, and after they’d exhausted the topics of the weather and the box scores, Peter mentioned that he was reading a book , Water for Elephants, which he found fascinating.  Rob said he thought it sounded interesting, and so, after Peter finished with it, he gave it to Rob to read.

Days later, Peter asked Rob what he thought of the book, and Rob said he’d really enjoyed it and passed it on to another homeless man.  This gave Peter the idea to ask Rob if he thought some of his friends would like to read some books in common and discuss them.  Peter offered to find a place where they could meet, and also said he would provide the books.

Rob was positive about the idea, and now a group of homeless people have come together as The Homeless Book Club.  They are meeting regularly in a church conference room to talk about books — “After all,  just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you can’t read,” one of the group remarked.  The group members refuse to let Peter provide refreshments for them.  They want to make it clear they aren’t doing this just to get a free meal.

Hartman reported that the book club participants are extremely enthusiastic about their newfound activity.  They feel it is a great way to get their minds off their problems and get  involved in thinking about meaningful topics.  One man, a former addict, claimed he was now experiencing a new and positive addiction — feeling “the rush of literature.”

Who knows — perhaps this encouraging report will spur the creation of additional Homeless Book Clubs in other cities.  Whether it does or not, it’s just nice to know that some of society’s frequently shunned outsiders have now been welcomed inside the world of book discussions and are really enjoying themselves.



About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

6 Comments on "A Book Club for the Homeless"

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  1.' Janet Edwards says:

    Thank you for this wonder piece! I do not have television in my home, gave it up years ago. On the rare occasion that I am moved to view anything on televison I do so online. This piece was a gift and an inspiration to recreate the homeless bookclub in my city.

    Blue skies,

  2.' Janet Edwards says:

    Oops, wonderful, not wonder piece!

  3.' Dan Holloway says:

    What a wonderful wonderful piece. I wonder if this kind of initiative could be twinned with book crossing, where people leave books at various locations to be picked up, read, and returned.

    In the UK we have a fabulous initiative, ABCtales, which is a repository for stories by the homeless.

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