Book clubs are great for binding friends together


March 14, 2000|By Pamela Woolford | Pamela Woolford,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BOOK CLUBS are more popular than ever, and members say that their clubs are about more than books. They're about sharing ideas and, sometimes, personal moments.

Gayle Bragg, an Oakland Mills resident, started the local book discussion group Book Nooks in January, after attending a book club meeting in Washington with a friend.

"I just was an invited guest one time and the bug bit," she said.

Bragg's group is made up of about eight women with children who attend Stevens Forest Nursery School.

One day in November, Bragg went to the school to pick up her daughter Devon. She and three other mothers found themselves talking in the playground for hours. Bragg realized that they had spent so much time talking because it was a rare chance for peer interaction.

That's when she decided to start Book Nooks -- as an opportunity for adults to get together each month.

"We're all races and all religions," Bragg said. "It's a mixed group. We have a really good time of laughing around the book and end up talking about lots of things."

Beverly Norbeck, an Oakland Mills resident and member of the UUCC Book Club, said that club meetings give her an opportunity to talk openly about her feelings.

Last month, the group read "The Pilot's Wife" by Anita Shreve.

"I think we all related, to some extent, to the pilot's wife, who was placed in a position of abandonment," Norbeck said.

A retired church administrator, Norbeck has been a member of the club since it began nine years ago. Her church, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in Owen Brown, started the group. That's why it's called UUCC.

Oakland Mills resident Vergie Pope, a retiree, has been a member of the Twelve in Twelve Book Club since 1989, when it was founded.

"It's really kind of therapeutic in a way," Pope said. "You really do let your hair down."

In addition to holding monthly discussion groups, Twelve in Twelve sponsors annual meet-the-author events and does charitable work. The group has donated more than 500 books to Baltimore schools over the years.

The group's name reflects the fact that there are 12 members who read 12 books in 12 months.

"We can talk about various things that go on in the home," Pope said, "and we can kind of laugh it off. And now we've gotten to the point where a number of us have aged parents, and you can sometimes sit down and talk about that. And there's kind of a relief in knowing that you're not the only one that's going through some of these things, you see."

Book Nooks, the UUCC Book Club and Twelve in Twelve hold their meetings in members' homes.

"Usually each hostess prepares food -- and I mean it's not just a snack," Pope said of her group's meetings.

Food is also important at Book Nooks meetings.

"We try to tie the food to the theme of the book, just for fun," Bragg said. "[In] `Mr. Spaceman,' an alien comes to Earth and is married to a woman from Alabama. And they beam everybody up, and she wants to do their hair and feed them Southern food. So there'll be pecan balls and cheese sticks at the book meeting."

At the east Columbia branch library, assistant branch manager Kelli Shimabukuro, leads monthly book discussions for the East Columbia Encounter book club, which she formed in January.

It's a group of about 20 men and women, ranging in age from 20-something to late 50s, Shimabukuro said. On Wednesday, the club discussed "Tuesdays With Morrie" by Mitch Albom. The book is Albom's account of his relationship with Morrie, his former college professor who is dying, and the life lessons Morrie teaches him.

The group discussed a quote from Morrie: "Death ends a life, not a relationship."

"I just came from a funeral this morning," said Ellicott City resident Dan Ryan. "It was my uncle who was 85 that had died. His wife of 51 years was there, and his son and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. And you know, the church was full of people."

The priest pointed out that everyone there had a relationship with his uncle, Ryan said, and that's why they were there, and that "we would all continue with that relationship when we left the church."

Shimabukuro said, "When I read the first couple of chapters, I was crying because it reminded me of my mother," who died in 1997,

Many club members related to the book's topic. "I don't think Morrie is any more special than you and I," said Hickory Ridge resident Susan Burns. "I think we all have stories to tell."

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