Parish-based group reading Kushner work

Book club

Howard Live

September 27, 2001

An interview with the Rev. Richard Tillman, who has been leading the book club at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Columbia for 24 years.

Do all of your book club members attend your church? A lot of folks come that are not members of the parish. ... We have a couple of Jewish people, a number of Protestant people.

Do you concentrate on a certain kind of book? Not necessarily. We started years ago with Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People, which was a best seller 20-25 years ago. ... There have been some books that reflect a religious theme, but for the most part, they're more popular books.

What book are members reading this month? Living a Life That Matters, which is also by Kushner.

How do you choose what to read? Consensus at the end of the meeting. What have people been hearing about? How can we balance out what we've been reading? Last month, we read a book with a feminist bias, so one of the members said we should read something more masculine. So we asked him, "Glen, tell us what to read." So he said, "John Grisham's A Painted House." It's about a young man who grows up in Arkansas who has to be a part of the family occupation of cotton picking ... and how he endures the family's trials and tribulations to stay alive.

Are there any books that club members have especially liked? The Sparrow [by Mary Doria Russell] really generated a meaningful discussion. The book is about Jesuits in outer space in the many years ahead of us and the kind of moral decisions that need to be in the world ahead of us. There was a definite religious aspect to it. The book was written by a woman who was, I think, Catholic, who became Jewish.

How often does your group meet? Maybe once every six weeks, depending on how long the book is going to take to read. Sometimes once a month.

Information about the book club: St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, 410-964-1425.

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