Readers Group a Nice Switch on Book Clubs

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By Helen Kossler

Reading Between the Lines

The Oak Park Library sponsors a Reader’s Club. Seems pretty obvious thing to do, I mean, being a place for books and all.  But apparently, it’s not that common for a public library to host a group of people who love to read and talk about the books they enjoy.


On Tuesday night I attended one of the quarterly meetings which was moderated, for want of a better word, by Alan Jacobson, a librarian. The format is simple—some coffee, cookies (food is always a draw for me), soft jazz and readers. Each participant brings some of their favorites—what they’ve been reading since the last meeting. In turn, each one gives a synopsis of the book, why they recommend it and their reaction to the book.  Other readers might comment on the selection or chime in with a book in the same vein.  There is a short discussion of the merits of the book and then it is passed around for everyone to look at. Then the next participant makes their book pitch.


Although most of the books are ones that readers liked, there have been presentations on books that readers loathed.  I like that idea—with so many choices, I don’t want to waste my time on something that’s dreadful. At this particular meeting, however, everyone talked about books that intrigued, entertained or inspired them.


There was a variety of books presented, most of them ones I would not have chosen on my own. There were three titles of nonfiction on current political events, one a fictional memoir from 50 years ago about a grandfather teaching his young grandson what it meant to be a man, a book about an athlete who plays soccer from a wheelchair and two collections of short stories. After listening to the readers report on their choices, though, I decided to check out a few of the titles.


The conversation was wide-ranging but interesting and the participants were varied.  Jacobson said that the group has been meeting since June 2007 and generally has between 15 and 30 people in attendance. Tuesday night there were only five participants but there was competition from a Linda Barry appearance across the street at the Unity Temple.


It is a nice change from the usual book club format because you choose your book and then present it. It’s perfect for those of us who flash back to high school English class anytime we’re told what to read or who have problems with authority figures telling us to do anything, even something we love.


The group meets once a quarter at the main library.  The next meeting is April 26 in the Veteran’s Room at the main library. Information about the group as well as books that the group has recommended can be found at:

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