Life

Metro Denver book clubs provide connections, intellectual challenges

Clubs offer variety for members

Posted 3/20/16

Marilyn Brown has been a member of the League of Women Voters for 46 years, but when she moved to Jefferson County a year ago, she didn’t know many people in the area.

Through Jeffco’s league, she discovered a new way to meet people.

“I …

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Life

Metro Denver book clubs provide connections, intellectual challenges

Clubs offer variety for members

Posted

Marilyn Brown has been a member of the League of Women Voters for 46 years, but when she moved to Jefferson County a year ago, she didn’t know many people in the area.

Through Jeffco’s league, she discovered a new way to meet people.

“I have been exposed to book clubs of several kinds over the years and have stolen their reading lists but never joined,” Brown wrote in an email interview. “I am not a literature or English major and would rather address content than style except when style affects the content. But I was really intrigued with Lynne Ellison’s idea of historical/contemporary/political nonfiction books, which I had been reading anyway.”

Brown is one of the many people who have found comradeship and intellectual challenges in book clubs.

Technology has changed the way many people read, but the yen to discuss, argue and deconstruct the written word hasn’t slackened at all.

“There are all kinds of book clubs out there for people,” said Nicole Sullivan, owner and operator of BookBar, a bookstore and winery in west Denver. “I just love books and talking about them. With the assignment feeling of book clubs, it ensures I keep reading.”

Many ways exist for readers to join a club, from starting their own with friends to finding clubs hosted by organizations and businesses.

Ellison, who founded the Jeffco League of Women Voters nonfiction club, said she had been considering launching the monthly club for years before finally doing so in September.

“A lot of clubs lean more toward fiction books, but I wanted to do more in-depth topics,” she said. “We have anywhere from six to 15 people come to our meetings, and they’re all just so dang smart.”

Libraries are a great resource for book club members or people interested in joining a club. Conference rooms can be rented for discussions, and librarians can help with selecting books and getting the meeting running.

The Anythink library system serving Adams County boasts six different book clubs, serving a range of literary interests.

In Jefferson County, residents can check out book-club kits for up to six weeks. Each kit includes up to 10 copies of a popular book and a guide to facilitate discussion.

But Jeffco libraries also are reaching out to disadvantaged people who want to be in a club, but aren’t able to make it into a library.

“We have our Dial a Book Club, which lets us reach out to people we weren’t able to before,” said Cecilia LaFrance, Jeffco’s Library2You Coordinator. “We’ve been going strong for nearly a year now, and it’s great for our participants to have regular connection with other people.”

Once a month, participants use their phone or computer to join a conference call at a prearranged date and time. A moderator is on hand to keep the conversation moving and lively.

“Frankly, from participants’ viewpoints, I think the main purpose of this club is to socialize,” said Mary Haacke, one of the moderators. “The particular book is just not that important. I don’t know if that is bad or good, but they are nice people and if they have a good time, so do I.”

By mixing the bookstore atmosphere with wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres, BookBar has become a popular location for clubs and author events, which was the intent of the place.

Over the years, Sullivan’s job has made her a keen observer of book club culture, and she has all kinds of advice for readers interested in getting a club going.

“I see a high failure rate for clubs, and I think one of the most important things to have in a club is a similar goal,” she said. “Sometimes, in one club you have people who are there more for the social aspect and others who want the more intellectual discussion. That can make things frustrating.”

Sullivan also advises finding people who are the same kind of reader and have similar interests.

Clubs are available for interests as specific or broad as a reader wants, and it’s really a smorgasbord of options. To make it easier to find a successful club, Sullivan launched www.BookClubHub.org, where clubs and readers can register to find the perfect fit. After answering some questions about reading style and interests, the site provides users with club options.

“There are so many options — everything from self-help and motivational clubs to science fiction and kids’ books,” she said. “It’s such a great way to build community and get more people reading.”

For participants, learning about both books and people is the best part.

“I get more out of a book when I know I will be discussing it with other folks," Brown said. "And the books’ topics lead to discussions beyond the book relevant to current political topics, and help us understand current events and situations."

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