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December 3, 2008

Book Clubs at the Holidays

Posted by carol
Tagged: readers share their book club tips, advice, stories and traditions for the holiday season...

Yesterday Carol Fitzgerald wrote about Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. The book has inspired many book groups to donate to the author's Central Asia Institute (CAI), which builds schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Read & Dialogue Book Group in San Antonio, Texas, has collected funds each month this year for the CAI. "I think one of the things that truly amazed our group was not only the lack of appreciation and lack of desire for education here, where it is free, but the lengths people will go to gain an education in third world countries," said member Ann Zeigler.

For their December gathering this year, the Read & Dialogue Book Group members are hosting author Leila Meacham, who will share her favorite books and authors, as well as the story of her road to publication. The group plans to read and discuss Meacham's debut novel, Roses --- about three generations in a small Texas town --- when it hits bookstores in early 2010.

The Gamma Book Club meets at the Bookwork Shop in Katy, Texas. (Two other groups at the store are called Alpha and Beta.) "We're celebrating the holiday season by meeting at a restaurant, in walking distance to the book shop, before our meeting," said member Nancy. "We'll have an hour and a half to eat, drink and chat."

Opting for a night out at a restaurant is also a "Christmas tradition" for Lindsey Hendrick and the Second Edition book club in Caswell Beach, North Carolina. "We each bring a book or books that we have read and really enjoyed, and we have an exchange," said Lindsey. "We wrap the books so that each person is surprised by the book(s) she receives."

Also touched by their reading of Three Cups of Tea, Second Edition members made a donation to author Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute in honor of a fellow member who passed away unexpectedly. "Most of are retired educators," said Lindsey, "so his cause really touched our hearts."

Members of the East Hill Book Group in Cortlandt Manor, New York, usually forgoe reading a book during the hectic holiday season and instead opt for a movie night. This year, they held movie night in November and have special plans for their December gathering. "We're big Jane Austen fans," said member Tracey Cuomo. "We're celebrating her birthday (December 16th) with period food, music and games."

"We take the month of December off from reading a designated book," said Christie Gause-Bemis of her reading group, Changing Chapters Book Club in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. "We get together as usual for a potluck supper and some laughter. Everyone brings a canned good or non-perishable to donate to the food shelter."

The Bookworms of Jamestown, New York, found a need in their community and responded with a helping hand. For the past several years members have brought to their December meeting baby clothes and children's books, which are donated to a maternity ward at a local hospital. "We learned that there are mothers who deliver and have nothing to take their newborn baby home in," said member Nancy Anderson. "We do this in lieu of giving gifts to each other."

The group's generosity doesn't stop there. "This year the staff of one of our local elementary schools has undertaken a project to give each student a new pair of pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve," Nancy said. "Since the help of community groups was needed to realize this goal we donated both pajamas and money."

There's a lighter side to the Bookworms' December luncheon meeting, too. "The hostess provides dessert and the rest of us bring a soup and salad bar ingredients," said Nancy. "A little wine also adds to the festive occasion."

"We have a catered lunch for our December meeting. We dress up and have the church fellowship hall decorated. We usually ask someone to play the piano, and we'll sing carols," said Carol Weigel of the Bookers, which is part of an activity group of the Lake Gaston Ladies Club. Members live at Lake Gaston located on the border of North Carolina and Virginia.

This year the group will be joined by guest speaker Bonnie Vest, author of the picture book Stuart Zoo, in keeping with the group's dedication to children's literacy. Every December members collect children's books for three local women's shelters. "This is so the mothers can give a gift of a book to their children. We wrap the books and put a post-it note on it with gender and age level," said Carol. "Our December meeting is always joyful, probably because we're excited to contribute a book to a child's life. It has become an important tradition."

---Shannon McKenna Schmidt