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April 6, 2009

Walking & Talking About Books

Posted by carol
General book discussion groups are cropping up everywhere --- informally talking about a range of books rather than one specific title. I recently had an impromptu chat on Facebook with several people about Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife. (Look for Robert's post here on the blog later this week.) And the Somerset Public Library in Somerset, Massachusetts, recently launched an informal book chat group.

Today we hear from Patti McFarland, the owner of Book Tales in Encinitas, California, who has started The Literary Walking Companions. Participants burn off calories while discussing whatever books they'd like. Patti tells us about their inaugural outing and what advice she has for those might want to start their own "walk and talk" group. What inspired you to start The Literary Walking Companions?
Patti McFarland: I was inspired to start the Literary Walking Companions as a spin-off of the Used Bookstore Crawls that I hosted last year. People enjoyed them so much. I thought, with everyone saving a penny here and there, that a free thing to do would be good. Everyone who attended our first walk enjoyed it greatly. So, a good start! What is it about the combination of walking and talking about books that you think appeals to participants?
PM: The ambiance and safety of walking in downtown Encinitas certainly helps maintain a relaxed mood. The Companions feel that they can freely talk about their favorite books and authors while doing something healthy for themselves. What books were discussed?
PM: I was interested to find out that the favorite was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, with The Red Tent by Anita Diamant close behind. I discussed David Gemmell's new historical trilogy, Troy. Also, Neuromancer by William Gibson got some talking time. Did people tend to stay on topic? How did you steer the conversation back to books, if necessary?
After introductions by the participants, it was fairly easy to stay on topic as everyone had something to say about it, even to the point of casting the actors for the film versions. If some group wanted to gather for walking and talking sessions about books, don't talk about just one book, as in a reading group, but let everyone free-wheel. People and what they read are fascinating, amazing and enjoyable. And they feel the stories, profoundly. I can't fail to be interested. What advice or tips do you have for groups of individuals who would like to start their own walk-and-talk book sessions?
PM: A safe place to walk for an hour is very important, as it is difficult to focus if one has to watch out for pan-handlers and inebriated folk; yes, even in the morning! I can't read everything (who can?), and so I appreciate the opinions and insights that the Companions express.