Page Turners: The Book Mates are committed to reading
Nine years ago, Brookfield resident Cindy Yeates, her daughter, her sister and her sister's daughter found themselves discussing a book each of them had read.
"I can't remember what the book was, but we started talking about it, and we said we should start a book club! So we invited some friends," Yeates said.
Thus began monthly meetings of the Book Mates. This club's nine members come from Brookfield, Newtown, Danbury, Watertown and Middlebury, and one lives part-time in Florida.
Scheduling meetings can be a challenge, especially since three members are schoolteachers. The teachers often have evening meetings, such as parent-teacher conferences, to work around.
But the Book Mates manage to meet once a month, year-round. "It's a commitment we all stuck with and enjoyed," Yeates said.
Members take turns having the meetings, which include providing a full dinner and dessert. The hostess also has final say on the book selection for the meeting. Sometimes she will present a few choices for the membership to vote on, other times she will simply announce the book to be discussed.
This club has some unique features. It collects dues of $10 each month, which goes to whatever members want -- often, a holiday dinner or show in December. They've attended holiday performances at the Westchester Broadway Dinner Theater in Elmsford, N.Y., the Spinning Wheel Inn in Redding, and the Bushnell in Hartford.
Sometimes they use the dues to support a club member who is experiencing a difficult time -- anything from sending flowers to helping the club be a first-place fundraising team at Newtown's Relay for Life a few years ago.
Two of the Book Mates have had breast cancer; one died from it and one is a survivor.
Yeates mentioned the club has talked about doing field trips associated with their reading, but that is a future goal. They sometimes have theme meetings beyond their Christmas outing, though.
"One year we had a meeting where we read Food & Wine magazine and the host had the manager from a local wine shop do a wine-tasting for us. We discussed the magazine and the recipes," Yeates said, before laughing as she added they may have focused more on the wine at that particular meeting.
The Book Mates read a variety of books, including fiction, nonfiction, classics, mysteries and love stories.
"We used to read the Oprah books when we first started," Yeates said. "But we try to avoid them now. We try to change where we get our books from, so we're not always reading what everyone else is.
"We always try to fit the books to the season, so we'll do a light book in the summer. By January we're reading something more serious, like a biography or self-help book.
"February is always a love story, and October is Halloween. We read a scary book. This year we're doing `Her Fearful Symmetry,' by Audrey Niffenegger."
One year, when the club was reading biographies, they had a costume party. Everyone attended dressed as a character from their reading.
And how did they come up with their name?
"The four of us wanted it to be a friendly group, so friends -- mates -- Book Mates," Yeates explained. "We have a lot of fun."
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