ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
If you’re a lover of books, consider joining one of the local reading groups that meets regularly to discuss fiction and nonfiction literature.
Earlier this month, one such group gathered at Hillsboro’s city hall to discuss “Levi’s Will,” a novel by W. Dale Kramer about Will, a man who runs away from his Amish community in Ohio.
“I thought this was one of the best we’ve read,” said Cathy Fish, librarian at Hillsboro Public Library.
Others in the group agreed.
This particular group, which began meeting in February 2005, meets the second Friday of each month.While time is usually spent discussing a list of questions about a book’s plot and characters, Jeanie Bartel of Lehigh attended to reminisce about her family’s ties to the Amish and to contrast her experience with those of Will’s.
A clerk at the library, Bartel said her parents grew up Amish in northeastern Oklahoma. Her parents left the community when she was 5, but throughout her growing-up-years, she interacted frequently with her Amish relatives.
Attending the reading group were Myrta Bartel, Rachel Epp, Elaine Jantzen, Pauline Greenhaw, Jane Vajnar, Ferne Hiebert and Mildred Harding, most of whom are life-long readers.
Former librarian Elaine Jantzen, a charter member, said she’s often concurrently reading three or four books .
Of her love for reading, Jane Vajnar of Tampa said, “I must have emerged from the womb with my chubby little hands holding a book.”
Several members said they keep books near for those times when sleep is illusive.
“One good thing about sleeping alone-you can keep a stack of books in your bed,” Myrta Bartel said.
Even though Pauline Greenhaw’s eyesight is failing, she said she is able to participate in group discussions about the featured book because Fish can often acquire an auditory copy for her.
When picking which titles to read, Fish said she checks other books clubs as well as solicits feedback from members of the group. She orders copies of selected books for readers through Inter-library loan.
Next month’s selection is “Me & Emma,” by Elizabeth Flock.
“The book will win your heart,” Fish told the group, which meets at 9 a.m. in the city council meeting room during the summer months.
The book slated for August is “Eat Ckae” by Jeanne Ray.
For more information about joining this group, call 947-3827.
Another local reading group takes a different approach to its book selections.
“Each member reads a different book,” said Janet Marler, librarian, about the group that meets at Marion City Library,
At the monthly meeting, members talk about a different book they’ve each read.
Most titles are books checked out from the library, although occasionally members have chosen ones not yet in the library’s collection, Marler said.
One perk for members is getting dibs on new titles at the library. At their meeting, Marler said she previews books coming to the library or ones that have recently arrived.
While it meets year-round, during the summer the book club convenes from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. the last Wednesday of the month at the library.
Still another option for readers is a group begun recently by Shelley Plett of Hillsboro.
“Having a group of like-minded people who really like to read-enough to get together to let people know about these books-is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Plett said.
Because Plett works during the day, she needs to meet evenings.
“I had wanted to start (a reading group) for a while, so what I do is ask around and get these few people started and then planned the next six months out,” Plett said.
The book club is in its third month and currently has four regular members.
“What’ve done so far is go online for reading group guides and then we’ll just e-mail each other a list of the questions to prepare for the next meeting,” she said. “Then, when we meet, we just talk about that one book.”
One such on-line resource is www.readinggroupguides.com.
The first book the group discussed was “Night” by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor.
Although a nonfiction selection, Plett said most books chosen by the group will be fiction.
“The first six are books that we’ve read or ones we’ve seen on lists that we thought would be good,” she said.
Normally the meeting time is 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month. Members rotate hosting and serving snacks at the meetings.
Plett said individuals who are interested in the books already chosen to read would be welcome to join the reading group-age or gender doesn’t matter.
“I’d like to get six or seven members at the most-that’s my goal.”
To accommodate summer schedules, the group will meet this week to discuss “My Sister’s Keeper,” a novel by Jodi Picoult that focuses on family relationships.
The next book on the list is “I Know This Much Is True,” by Wallie Lamb.
“We put one book in (the schedule) for July and August-it’s a longer book, plus with baseball schedules for our kids, we decided to do that.”
Those interested can call Plett at 947-3967 or e-mail email@example.com for more information.
“Just so people know we’re there and if they’re interested, they’re welcome,” she said.