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November 10, 2009

Book Club Longevity: Vulture and Culture

Posted by webmaster
Over the next couple of weeks we're going to be introducing some remarkable book clubs --- ones that have been meeting for at least twenty years. We've asked members to share their insight on how they've been able to keep the momentum going and what recommendations they have for other groups that would like to make it to the two-decade mark...and beyond.

First up is an interview with Marion Miller, whose book club, V & C (short for Vulture and Culture) in Far Rockaway, New York, has been in existence for nearly 35 years. There are still five original members in the group. How was your book club formed?

Marion Miller:
My book club started as an offshoot of a study group that I belonged to. I found that the members preferred talking about books rather than issues, i.e. the welfare system. Our first meeting was held on a cold winter's night in front of a roaring fire. We all arrived in our pajamas and bathrobes. This was a group of about four or five neighborhood women. We were friends and acquaintances. However, at each meeting another neighbor asked to join. Since this was more than 30 years ago we were able to meet by day, as we were all stay-at-home moms. As time went on most of us returned to the workforce and so our meetings returned to an evening format. Due to various circumstances (relocation, death, etc), we've had to add new members.

RGG: To what do you attribute the longevity of your book club?

We all belong to a Sisterhood at our local Jewish Center, so finding new members is not difficult. At one time there were at least three different book clubs, but now we are down to one group of nine.

RGG: What advice do you have for other groups who would like to make it to the 20-year mark?

MM: My advice to book clubs is to give everyone a chance to talk unless they veer from the topic at hand. For this problem you need a sergeant-at-arms! When we first started there were always a few people who did not read the book, and they would try to divert us from the topic at hand.

RGG: Tell us about an especially memorable book discussion or meeting.

One of our most memorable meetings was when one of our members, a science teacher, suggested we read Lives of a Cell. She thought it was great, and we hardly understood it and had a hard time keeping straight, serious faces. Another time someone suggested the first book of the Old Testament. This too was a problem. When we tackled Dante's Inferno we invited a professor friend to do the review.

We meet about 10 times a year and go out for dinner once a year. When you are the hostess for a meeting you choose the next book. In this way we do not waste time arguing about a book. At the next meeting the person who chose the book gives a summary and info about the author and then a discussion is opened. This works for us.