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This month we feature a well-established book club, sharing book love is such a positive experience, and reading about the different book groups around the country fills my heart with warmth! I particularly love how open to new experiences the members are, how they are willing to read something they might not have picked up themselves. Book clubs open minds as well as hearts.
We are called Ridgeway Readers, because we have members in Weymouth and Dorchester and the area in between is a hill called The Ridgeway which you have to drive over to get from one to the other.
We started around September or October 1998. Two of us met helping at our childrens’ primary school whilst at a PTA event. We soon realised our mutual love of books and decided to give a reading group a go.
We began with four members and have grown to 14. Over the years we have seen people come and go, but we have always had a loyal core of members. As our lives have changed with children leaving home and retirement for some we have a much more free flow attendance as people’s lives are busier than ever. We have one loyal man who has been a member from the beginning.
Whoever is hosting the meeting chooses the book.
About every six weeks
We take turns to host in our own homes.
Usually, the host begins by explaining what led them to choose the particular book. We then have a free discussion for at least an hour around themes, characters and plot with all opinions welcomed. This discussion can sometimes lead us off on a tangent and we discuss other things, but then come back to the book.
We usually have wine and nibbles, then after the book discussion is finished we have general social chat and coffee and biscuits or cake.
Autumn by Ali Smith
As a group, we use all those formats and some members do prefer one format over another. Far more people use an E-reader now than when we started. I have one but still prefer holding a book in my hand. Another member favours audiobooks.
I polled our members and the book that came out on top is The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson.
No we don’t have a favourite as amongst the group we have very different tastes.
In 2013 we read The Time-torn Man a biography of Thomas Hardy. We were lucky enough to discuss it in the dining room at Max Gate where Hardy lived until his death.
We also had a trip to Lyme Regis after reading Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, we were following in the footsteps of Mary Anning, a young woman of that town who was a famous fossil hunter.
One meeting went on until almost 2am when we discussed My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. There was so much to discuss!
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood was a brilliant discussion as the ambivalence in the plot and main character generated so many varying opinions and interpretations.
Be prepared to start small and be open to members of all ages.
Have an online forum for discussion, and information on meetings and books. Our Facebook page is only open to members.
You will read books you may not have chosen, so be prepared to challenge your reading habits and challenge yourself. You will gain different perspectives and insights into the book during discussion.
Finally, keep a record of all the books you read. I really wish we had a complete record of all our books.