Popularity of local book clubs shows there’s no need to read alone

Members of the Book Bin Best Sellers Book Club meet at 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month, reading current fiction and nonfiction. Book Bin is located at 450 Court St. NE, Salem.

Read a good book lately?

Even techies like to read a good book once in a while, and libraries, book stores, book publishers, even online sites such as Goodreads.com, meetup.com and Facebook, provide outlets to discuss the written word.

“I’ve always been a reader,” says Melody Wingert. “I grew up going to the library as a kid, and have always enjoyed it.”

Wingert toyed with the idea of being a writer up until high school when she realized she was better off reading books instead, she says.

“I joined a book club at my previous employer to help me get out of my reading bubble and expose me to books that may be ones I would never read otherwise,” Wingert says. “I’ve been a part of the Best Sellers group at the Book Bin for about three years now.”

Looking for more local connections, Wingert came across the group via Goodreads.com. Some of her favorite books since then are: “Bel Canto,” “Still Alice,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “Me Before You.”

“There are so many to choose from,” she says. “I love World War II historical fiction and biographies from that time period. ‘Every Man Dies Alone’ is another favorite.”

The book club provides Wingert with an opportunity to discuss books, meet friends, and learn about their perspectives.

“There are plenty of times where I’ve loved a book and others didn’t, or vice versa,” she says. “I like coming to the group and sharing why.”

Wingert says Best Sellers Book Club veers toward books that are fairly current, and members choose which books to read.

“We also try to rotate between fiction and nonfiction,” she adds. “I’d say primarily it’s fiction, but every three or four books, we try to throw in a nonfiction to switch things up. We tend to steer away from authors that are the ‘churn ‘em out’ one book a year, the typical courtroom thriller/murder mystery authors, that type of thing.”

Manager Trinh Le says the Book Bin hosts three clubs: Best Seller Book Club at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month, reading current fiction and nonfiction bestsellers; Feminist Book Club at 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month, reading books by feminists and/or addressing feminist issues; and Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club at 7:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, reading sci-fi and fantasy titles.

All clubs meet in the store, and draw between four and 10 participants.

“People seem to enjoy attending their respective book clubs,” Le says. “The clubs are pretty autonomous. The Feminist Book Club just finished reading ‘What Happened’ by Hillary Clinton, followed by ‘Women, Race and Class’ by Angela Davis, and ‘The H-Spot’ by Jill Filipovic.”

Best Sellers read “Radium Girls” by Kate Moore, followed by “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi and “Artemis” by Andy Weir. The Sci-Fi/Fantasy group read “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood.

“People enjoy meeting in person, meeting with people otherwise they might not know,” she says. “If you are interested in a club, come sit in on a meeting.”

The Salem Public Library has two book clubs for adults: Books for Dessert at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month; and Books for Lunch at noon on the third Wednesday. Both groups meet in the meeting rooms at the library, and are open to the public. To participate, just show up.

“We usually get 10 to 16 people at a meeting,” says Ann Scheppke, adult services librarian. “The title of the book that’s being discussed is always listed in the library’s newsletter, on Facebook, and in the online library events calendar.”

This spring, Books for Lunch discussed Lawrence Hill’s “The Illegal,” while Books for Dessert discussed “The Last Pilot.”

Scheppke says books for the book clubs are purchased for the library with money provided by the Friends of Salem Public Library and the Salem Public Library Foundation.

“Club participants may check out copies at their meetings or at the ‘Ask Here’ desk at the library’s main branch,” she says. “Staff selects the titles with input from club members. We try to purchase a variety of popular fiction and nonfiction titles. Our aim isn’t to buy books that we know everyone will like, but rather ones that will lead to interesting discussions.”

After the two in-house book clubs have had a chance to read and discuss the selections, the book club kits are made available for other area book clubs to check out. Book club kits include 10 copies of a title plus a list of discussion questions, and can be checked out for two months at a time.

“Most of the people who participate in our book clubs do so because they enjoy trading insights with others who care about books,” Scheppke says. “The comment I hear the most is that people like the book clubs because a club introduces them to authors and titles they would never choose on their own.”

Check your local library, book stores and the internet for clubs in your area.

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