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November 18, 2009

Book Club Longevity: Thursday Night Book Club

Posted by webmaster
When Judy Silver's book club launched, she and her fellow members were new mothers...39 years ago. "We're now grandmothers who still love good literature," says Judy. "We are still going strong in 2009!"

Today we talk with Judy about the Thursday Night Book Club, which meets in West Hartford, Connecticut --- what kinds of books they read, how the group is structured, the reading selection process and more.

Previous Book Club Longevity Interviews:
V&C (Vulture and Culture)
Farmington Woods Book Group How was your book club formed?

Judy Silver:
Our Thursday Night Book Club is in its 39th year! I was approached by the president of the Hartford chapter of Brandeis University National Women's Committee to begin a book club. I was fairly new to the Hartford area but had enjoyed leading book club discussions in St. Louis previously. Notice was sent out to members about the formation of this new group. Through the years we have had people come and go as they moved in and out of town. However, some of my closest friendships have developed through our book club. We now have about 23 people on our roster with the average number attending each month about 18.

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

We read excellent literature (rarely read something from the bestseller lists unless it is a remarkable book like The Kite Runner). We read a cross-section of authors writing about many different cultures and time periods. We have a high level of commitment to the group. The people in the group are serious readers.

We have one half-hour of refreshments, and then we sit down to business. Our rotation of homes, book discussion leaders and titles selected are all planned at a Pot Luck Supper
in June for the following year. Having the process carried out in an organized, fair manner lets everyone know this is a book club for the truly interested reader.

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

JS: Our selection process follows these guidelines:
1) the book must be in paperback
2) the book has to be of good quality literature that lends itself to discussion; this is not necessarily a "beach book" or an "airplane book," but one for which the reader is willing to stretch herself to read and discuss
3) each member can nominate one or more books, preferably having read them or have good credentials for them; the entire group then votes on nine titles for the year out of the ones "nominated." The nine getting the most votes make it to the list.

Having the above method of choosing books has kept the level of book selection high, making this a desirable book club in which to continue.

Members register for this book club at the beginning of the academic year and pay a nominal registration fee (all of which goes to our national organization of Brandeis University). Those registering for the book club must be members of the organization. A guest may visit one time before joining.

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

JS: We have had so many: Magister Ludi and the Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse (many years ago!), works by Kurt Vonnegut, stories by Tillie Olson, Blindness by Jose Saramago. A personal favorite discussion of mine was when we discussed Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway one month followed by The Hours by Michael Cunningham the following month.