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Arts & Culture

Top Book Clubs In Connecticut

August 26, 2013 8:00 AM

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(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

Some book clubs are more about the club than the book, while others are just the opposite. Serious book clubs tend to dissect, examine, critique and even argue about the tome selected for the meeting. Others are more gentle and genteel gatherings of like-minded readers just looking for someone else who shares their taste in a particular genre, author or period. Some can take on the aspect of fan clubs, while others may seem more like writers’ groups – and may indeed include a number of published or hoped-to-be published authors. Then there are the groups that are little more than an excuse for lonely people to find someone with a common interest to talk to for an hour.   Choosing a book club is like choosing any other club to join: it requires at least a little bit of research and some trial and error to find a good fit. Many book clubs have websites, but except for those based out of public libraries or commercial bookstores, most do not give out contact info or phone numbers of organizers and members – except to other members. Fortunately, membership in most clubs is open to all and can be had by filling out a simple contact form and an exchange of welcoming emails.

The Cheshire Cats Classic Book Club
The Cheshire Public Library
104 Main St.
Cheshire, CT 06410
(203) 272-2245
www.cheshire.patch.com

Like many public libraries, the one in Cheshire has a book club – and not just one, but several, including a Summer Reading and a Tweens club. Its flagship club, however, is the Cheshire Cats Classic Book Club – named obviously for both the character in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and for the town in which it meets. Jean Bartlett runs the classics group, and her “top ten” recommendations for members include Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with The Wind,” Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” and Dashiel Hammet’s “The Maltese Falcon.” Membership in the club is open to all who love good books – and who love and respect public libraries and the good they do in their community.

Brookfield Book Chat: The Brookfield Library’s Online Book Club
The Brookfield Public Library
182 Whisconier Road
Brookfield, CT 06804
(203) 775-6241
www.brookfieldlibrary.org

Not everyone who wants to talk about books can make it to meetings at restaurants, bookstores or libraries. Work, family and other scheduling conflicts often preclude attending a mid-afternoon or early evening book club gathering, as the members of Brookfield Book Chat know all too well. That is why they formed their group as an online book club. The organizers choose a current, popular book (in July, that was “Gone Girl Gone” by Gillian Flynn) and post at least two topics for discussion. Site master “Katherine” only asks that members follow some simple rules of etiquette and good taste, notably that they “be respectful to other members,” “keep comments on topic” and refrain from “offensive and inappropriate comments,” which she notes “will be deleted.” Katherine also notes, as do many book club moderators, that “for you personal safety, any posts containing or requesting personal information, including phone numbers, will be deleted.”

The Westport Book Club
Panera Bread
596 Westport Ave.
Norwalk, CT06851
www.meetup.com

Founded in 2009, The Westport Book Club still meets on selected Saturday afternoons, as it has almost since its inception, at the Panera Bread restaurant on Westport Avenue in Norwalk. Co-organizers Morgan and Lydia help the club’s 99 members (and counting) keep in touch with one another and choose books to discuss at weekly meetings. To contact them or other members, one must first join the club, which can be done through the link on meetup.com. The group posts the dates of its Saturday gatherings and what book will be discussed, and these can be viewed on the website without becoming a member. Meetings tend to be small, often no more than four or five people, and most of the books noted on the calendar are non-fiction. Among the books scheduled to be discussed in August, September and October include Thomas Sowell’s “Intellectuals and Race,” Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” and Rachel Maddow’s “The Unmooring of American Military Power.”

Related: Top Local Authors In Connecticut

Literary Soul Mates
Barnes & Noble
360 Connecticut Ave.
Norwalk, CT06854
www.meetup.com

Organizer and founding member Kayla Parent has run or attended 44-plus meetings of Norwalk’s Literary Soul Mates book club, a group she helped create in 2009 to bring together lovers of classic literary fiction. In early August, for example, the group has its Joseph Conrad double-header, discussing “Lord Jim”and “Heart of Darkness,” books every middle school boy and girl used to read over the summers but great novels they rarely ever revisit in adulthood – which is when they can be appreciated most. Later that month, Ms. Parent is hosting her club’s discussion of Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage,” which is followed by a nearby pub. Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel” (which has nothing to do with Disney’s “Little Mermaid” of the same name) and Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” (upon which the classic black and white film of course is based) are on tap for September and October. Ms. Parent’s goal, as the selection above notes, is to “bring together people with a passion for reading” – and not just reading any book, but the great novels of literature.

The Hartford Area Book Club
Barnes & Noble
Buckland Hills Mall
Manchester, CT  06042
www.meetup.com

With a membership in excess of 320, The Hartford Area Book Club is one of the largest and most eclectic in Connecticut. The Barnes & Noble bookstore (quite fittingly) is host to many of its meetings, attendance at which tends to hover around a dozen. Current chief organizer Claudia Max has been to nearly 60 of the club’s meetings, many of which she put together since taking on this role in March.  Why did she join and stay in this group (which was founded six years ago)? “I love discussions and getting to know new people and points of view,” explains Ms. Max. “I would really like to be introduced to new books and get to know others in my community,” she adds, and “love to share in conversations on familiar topics.” The club is perfect for that, especially because, as she notes, like many people, especially those who join book clubs: “I’m shy.”

Related: Top Permanent Exhibits In Connecticut 

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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