Page Turners: Newcomers' book review group gets Brookfield readers together
Elena Goletz must love to read. This former teacher is now a lawyer who belongs to more than one book club.
One of the clubs she's involved with is the Newcomers and Neighbors of Brookfield's book review group. She shares coordination duties with Colette Collins, a teacher at an area school.
This book discussion group doesn't have a formal name for itself. Members usually refer to it as "book review" or "book discussion group." It has been meeting for many years. Goletz has been a member for 12 years, and thinks the group had been in existence for a long time before she joined, perhaps for 20 years or more.
"We read a wide variety of books," Goletz said. "A little bit of everything. Mostly we read fiction, but we have a goal to read one nonfiction a year."
The group also tries to include one classic each year in their book selections. Members have the right to suggest up to three books during the annual book selection process. The member is expected to have read the books she suggests.
At the club's July meeting, those in attendance pick the book to be read for the September meeting. The July meeting also gives those attending the chance to promote the books they're suggesting. Members not in attendance can submit their suggestions to Goletz and Collins via e-mail. But since the July meeting is also the annual ice cream social, it's a meeting the group particularly enjoys.
The coordinators then put together the suggestion list and tabulate members' votes. Book selection is by majority vote. "It's done on a very democratic basis," Goletz said. "Then Colette and I figure out the order in which we'll read the books. For our December meeting, we have a party, so we pick a lighter read for that meeting. We have a shorter, lighter read also for January."
Goletz mentioned the following as the club's operating procedures:
l If you suggest a book, it's expected that you've read it. This is based on experiences in the past when members suggested books based on hearsay and were disappointed by the book when the club read it.
l If you recommend a book, you should be prepared to lead the discussion. It involves providing a little background on the author and suggesting some questions at the meeting. Some members are uncomfortable leading discussions, so this is not a hard-and-fast rule. "Discussions just naturally get going," Goletz said. "But sometimes we just need a little kick-start."
l While it is expected that members will read the book prior to the meeting, they are still welcome to attend the meeting even if they have not. In fact, two members often come to the meeting and decide whether or not to read the book based on the discussion that takes place. They attend knowing that the book will be discussed under the presumption that all have read it, so no spoiler alerts are expected.
l The group tries to pick books that are available in paperback to make it easier on the wallet for those members who buy the book. Katherine Van Leuwen, an adult reference librarian at Brookfield Library, is a club member and helps make copies of the books available for members to borrow.
l Meetings take place in members' homes on the first Tuesday of every month, except August, beginning with social time at 7:30 p.m. The book discussion starts at 8 p.m. and typically lasts from one to two hours. The hostess provides the beverages, usually wine, soft drinks, tea and coffee. Another member brings the snacks.
With some 15 members, each plays hostess once every year or two. And, yes, it's all hostesses -- although men are welcome, none have joined so far.
l Everyone has a chance to say something about the book. Years ago, to encourage participation, Goletz's inner teacher compelled her to have the members rank the book. At the end of the discussion, members take turns going around the room, ranking the book on a scale of 1 to 10 and giving a brief explanation of why they ranked it as they did.
Members sometimes find themselves changing their mind as a result of the discussion. Goletz explained that someone may enter the meeting with a ranking in mind, only to find themselves changing their chosen number based on points raised during the discussion.
Collins and Goletz jot down the ranks and arrive at an average rank for each book. This information is shared with the larger Newcomers membership in the club's newsletter. Sometimes Newcomers members will attend just one or two book review meetings when they are particularly interested in the book. Commitment to attend all the meetings is not required.
Most books average around seven or eight, but one book stands out in the ranks. "The Three Junes," by Julia Glass, was the lowest-rated book the club has read. No one liked it.
When the discussion winds down, more socializing takes place. The point of Newcomers is, after all, to get to know people.
Apparently it works, because Goletz finds that, among those who have been members for a while, they can predict each other's reaction to any given book with a fair degree of accuracy.
Over time, the membership changes. "We're a mobile community," Goletz said of Brookfield. "But there is a core group of longtime members, too. The composition has changed, but not completely."
"We have a broad range of member ages. The oldest is 77 and the youngest is in (her) early 30s."
The members will be reading "Change of Heart" by Jodi Picoult for their September meeting.
The Newcomers and Neighbors Club of Brookfield plan many events for members and their families throughout the year, and is looking for new members. Anyone, whether new to Brookfield or a resident for many years, who would like more information, contact Donna Horree at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Newcomers book review group, contact Colette Collins at email@example.com or Elena Goletz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To have your book club featured in "Page Turners," send an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject line book club. Please include a daytime phone number.