The Joys of the Library Book Club

TeryeBaloghWritten by Terye Balogh

I am the facilitator of our library book club in Milpitas, and have been doing this since 2004. This was quite an undertaking for me, as prior to this I had only been to two book club meetings; needless to say I was nervous. I didn’t need to be. Running this book club has been wonderful. As a librarian, I have learned to love books more, and love interacting with readers to hear their impressions and reactions to the books we read.

I see the book club foster an incredible appreciation for the written word, and for the authors themselves and all that goes into writing a book. When I first had the task of selecting the books for the group, I would stress over the subject, the writing style, even the length of the book I was selecting. I would read the books beforehand to see if I could judge their worthiness. I learned very quickly that by reading to judge a book’s worthiness I was hindering my own reading experience, taking away from my enjoyment of it.

I read reviews of books and choose the ones that I think are “different.” I like to think of some of the titles as hidden gems. Titles that may have been missed due to being published alongside mammoth best sellers. What I love best is to see how the group devours a book, how they make it their own experience, and how excited they are to share their insights or to find answers to questions they had while reading.

The experience of reading for a group allows us the freedom to read a book that, while selected by someone else, we read for the sole reason of the pleasure of reading and then share and reflect with a group of like-minded individuals in an atmosphere of acceptance. There are many times when we have commented that as we read, we look forward to hearing another member discuss a certain passage or character when we meet.

I think what strikes me the most that I have heard from the members is that reading has somehow changed: not so much a chore to accomplish for an upcoming meeting, but an adventure shared. Knowing that you’re meeting with a group helps some of us push through to the end of a challenging book. You feel somehow more committed to the book and the reading process itself.

The best books that I have found for our groups are those that spark a shared experience. The death of a parent, life during war time, a first love or travel to a different country, all these experiences weave the members together, strengthening their bond, and a book become less of a duty to read and more of an opportunity to learn more about themselves, and about their fellow book club members.

Terye Balogh
Adult Librarian – Book Group Facilitator
Milpitas Public Library
Milpitas, CA

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