This book group was started to foster community among neighbors in a lakefront Chicago high-rise. More than a decade later, it offers its members a forum to discuss books freely while reading widely across every genre. Every member contributes equally to the selection and discussion of books, and the group’s organizer emphasizes the importance of keeping meetings enjoyable for everyone.
Leader: Helene Raidl
Years of Operation: 12
* * *
When, where, and how often do you meet?
Our group was started in 2004 among unit owners, both women and men, in our condominium association as a way to explore books that many of us would not usually read and to foster socialization among condo owners. It now also includes some friends from neighboring buildings. We usually meet approximately once every six weeks in the hospitality room in our building.
How does your group make its reading selections?
Members are asked to suggest books. We also utilize book reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, the New York Times, and independent bookstores. We look for book availability through the Chicago Public Library and usually wait until a book is in paperback. Some members also use e-books. Our selections include both fiction and nonfiction.
Which book did your group collectively like the most this past year?
Often we don’t have a consensus, but we try to learn from each other and see different viewpoints. However, everyone in the group did enjoy The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride, for its history and sense of satire.
Which is the most divisive book your group has read, and why?
Probably Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The group had wide-ranging feelings and opinions about Mr. Jobs and that colored our discussion of the book. Again, we tried to listen to each person’s viewpoint, but it was more difficult with this book.
How do your group discussions work?
We try to share leadership and often have free-flowing discussions. Usually the person who has suggested the book will lead the discussion. We have been known to use some of the discussion questions often provided with a book. Our group has a broad range of opinions and ideas and we always learn something new that we hadn’t thought about in reading the book.
What is your group most looking forward to reading this year?
Since we tend to fly by the seats of our pants, we don’t plan very far ahead. We usually pick the next book at each meeting.
What is the best piece of advice you’d give a group that is just getting started?
Be open to all book suggestions in the beginning. Be patient and listen to each other. Provide some type of snack. Have fun and don’t take yourselves or the book too seriously.
Are you looking for new members?
Not at this time.
* * *
Want to have your book group featured on The Booklist Reader? Fill out our Q&A.