The Read and Feed Book Club of Venice, Florida, is a group of a dozen self-proclaimed “old ladies.” Comprised mostly of retired librarians and high-school teachers, with a few musicians as well, this group is mostly interested in aging issues (they loved Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal), but they enjoy other genres as well. They’ve got a fantastic tip for groups that are just starting out: give everyone a chance to participate.
Years of Operation: est. 10 years
Leader: Changes every month (Nancy Pike reporting)
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Tell us about your book group.
I joined the Read and Feed Book Club about 5 years ago. It had been going strong for a number of years before that and was started by women who were neighbors. All dozen of us are old ladies. I retired as library director in 2006 and two of us are retired librarians. Two are retired high school teachers and a couple are musicians. Our biggest argument so far has been that our choices are “too literary” for some readers. We read on all topics, fiction and non-fiction. We think we might be adding poetry. There is no particular theme to our group though we are particularly interested in aging issues but otherwise I don’t think we are much different from others. Our members come from several communities within a 50-mile radius. (Some of the original neighbors have moved since).
When, where, and how often do you meet?
We have lunch once a month, on the fourth Wednesday, usually at someone’s house but occasionally at a restaurant. (Not everyone likes to cook.) The book discussion follows with various people leading.
How does your group make its reading selections?
Every few months we discuss potential selections. Everyone contributes ideas and we hash them over. I am on various publisher and library websites (like Booklist‘s) and I compile my list from those. Other members find reviews in the paper, magazines, and other websites.
Which book did your group collectively like the most this past year?
Which is the most divisive book your group has read?
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, was the most divisive book we read. Some thought it was too depressing and just didn’t like it. We listened to a section read by Kenneth Branagh, however, and most thought they might have appreciated it more if they had listened to it instead of reading it.
How do your group discussions work?
There is one leader each time but the leader role is passed around. A few members don’t like to lead while others are willing to do it more often. We often start with a list of questions that the leader compiles but we rarely stick to that once the discussion starts.
What is your group most looking forward to reading this next year?
What is the best piece of advice you’d give a group that is just getting started?
Make sure your leader gives everyone a chance to participate. Nothing is more discouraging than having one person dominate the discussion.
Are you looking for new members?
Unfortunately, not right now.
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