Once every month, we’ll share the motivation and passion that drives one book club — it could be yours! — from across the globe. These are the people who have combined the solitary pleasure of reading a book with the joy of sharing, discussing, and debating it in a social setting.
February’s featured group is known as Booked on Tuesdays—though we prefer to call them Book Club on a Boat, based on the photo they sent us, where they’re celebrating one member’s birthday on a boat on Lake Michigan. Say hello to Margie White, who works as a bookseller at Just the Bookstore in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (and was the one behind the camera in this photo).
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the “Booked on Tuesdays” book club?
I have been in several book clubs in different cities over the course of my life, from Kansas City to Chicago to Paris, France. My experience in all of my different book clubs has definitely made me a better bookseller. I’m more in tune to what our customers are looking for—what works, what doesn’t, and why. Plus, the best handsell in the world? “My book club loved that book.”
My favorite book club is the one in my hometown of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, which started over 12 years ago. We call ourselves “Booked on Tuesdays,” although to be honest, my husband calls it “Wine Club.” I’ve been known to have a wicked hangover the Wednesdays after book club meetings, especially in the summertime.
Who are the members of your club? How did you come to know each other?
“Booked on Tuesdays” was formed in 1999. Most of the women knew each other from the neighborhood or the local grade school. I met one of the members while volunteering at my kids’ new school, and we started talking about books. Their book club had just read Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross) and The Red Tent (Anita Diamant), both of which I’d read and loved back in Kansas City. When she joked about serving Bloody Marys to go with The Red Tent, I knew we would be a good match.
How does your group select each book?
We meet one Tuesday a month, at least if we’re organized. We used to pick out books by consensus, but now we let each hostess decide for herself. It’s always fun to discover something new. The hostess is responsible for doing some research and coming up with some food to match the theme of the book. We like to mix up our book club picks by including some current fiction, historical fiction, classics, as well as some non-fiction and biographies. We even read Bossypants by Tina Fey, which isn’t your typical book club pick, but we all really liked it.
Do you incorporate food, films, field trips, or other bonus features into your meetings?
We love organizing bookish field trips. One of our favorite field trips was to the Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in nearby Oak Park, Illinois, when we read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. We had a fun tour guide who’d read the book and who loved to gossip about what a scoundrel Frank Lloyd Wright was. We went to see the Monet paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago when we read Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell, and spent even more time than usual admiring River Scene at Bennecourt, Seine, Monet’s painting of Camille and their son Jean by the river.
Once or twice a year we go to the book performances by Barbara Rinella, a Chicago area “book dramatist.” She is a charismatic former English teacher who dresses up as a character from a recent book. Her act is half book review, half stand-up comedy. Some of our favorite performances include Camille Monet from Claude and Camille and Hadley Hemingway as The Paris Wife. She’s also done Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, The Life of Pi, The Commoner, and John Quincy Adams (hilarious).
We’re lucky to have a hometown author who has come to visit our book club. Melanie Benjamin is a friend, neighbor, and former PTA mom. Now she’s a New York Times best-selling author. We had a great chat about her first book, Alice I Have Been, and we can’t wait to read The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Chances are good she’ll come back if we bribe her with more wine and dessert.
We’re movie pals too, especially when it’s a romantic period flick our husbands would rather avoid. I swear to God we’re all in love with Colin Firth for his role as Mr. Darcy. And we swooned over Prince Albert in Young Victoria. We drank pink Cosmos before Sex and the City, and met up at our dingy old Glen Ellyn theater for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Now that a lot of us are empty nesters, we have the freedom to contemplate more far-flung book-related travel. We’re hoping to plan a book club trip to Paris this summer. I’m already brainstorming the book possibilities: The Paris Wife, The Hare with Amber Eyes, The Last Nude, The Greater Journey… there are just so many good books set in Paris!
Of all the books your club has selected, which is your favourite?
Our all-time favorite book club pick might be The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. We’ve also loved Girl with a Pearl Earring, What is the What, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Cutting for Stone, and Little Bee. After 9/11, we had fascinating conversations about the lives of Muslim women, and would highly recommend Geraldine Brooks’ Nine Parts of Desire. We loved Anna Quindlen’s Loud and Clear (2004), which was a collection of her smart and reflective essays from Newsweek and the New York Times. One of our most recent favorites was Rules of Civility.
Has your book club and its members had a meaningful impact on your life?
I love how our book club discussions have a life of their own. We turn everything into a good discussion, even books that don’t seem like good book club books. I swear to God, we could make a good discussion out of a paper bag. One of my favorite discussions was over Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. The social restrictions she wrote about over 100 years ago still resonate today. We couldn’t stop talking. The wine and the wisdom flowed that night, and we felt closer for it. We also had a terrific discussion about Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, even if some of us didn’t like it at all. I think someone said: “We’re all Patty.” That was intense.
I think book clubs have a level of conversation that you just wouldn’t have without the book as your entree. It’s as if we can see more clearly and speak more freely when we talk about books. I think we’re better and more empathetic friends because of it. And of course, there’s the laughter. The loud, late-night laughter of open-minded, kind-hearted, happily-over-served, long-time friends.
Now that’s a good book club.
To be featured in a future Book Club Spotlight, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of your club and what makes it stand apart from the rest.