My friend the writer, teacher, feminist activist and philanthropist Sallie Bingham, who was one of the first outstanding women I interviewed for my WOW Factor blog in Taos, New Mexico, in July 2014, is my guest blogger for this week’s WOW. (Read that interview with Sallie at: www.bonnieleeblack.com/blog/sallie-bingham/ ).
With Sallie’s blessing, I’m reposting her newest blogpost, “In Praise of Book Groups,” which I’m sure my own WOW readers will appreciate and enjoy.
Sallie writes from Sante Fe, NM:
One of the many blessings of my life is my book group. I’ve been a member for six years, but this amazing collection of twelve women has been together much, much longer, probably about three decades, from the time several of them retired after years of teaching.
If you don’t already belong to a book group, hurry right out and join one or assemble one from scratch. Here are a few suggestions about how to make it work—and continue to work—for years:
- Several of the members should have long-term, important connections. They already know each other well, and become the nucleus, inviting others to join as time goes by.
- Limit the group to twelve. Not all will come at any one time, but larger than that is unwieldy.
- You will need a wheel horse. In my case, one of the women in the original nucleus makes the whole thing go. We always meet at her house, which prevents the confusion of shifting from place to place. She sends out email notices weeks in advance of the meeting, and informs everyone of the book chosen, usually at the prior meeting.
- At the meeting itself, she leads the discussion, but one other member asks the key questions. Yet another member provides a snack; the hostess provides water and iced tea. Meetings usually last two hours, in our case on Sunday afternoons.
- There is no fee.
- More complicated is the issue of choosing the books. These are serious, even challenging books across all genres, including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Members suggest books they’ve read, a second reading happens, and then the book is either chosen by the group and put on the calendar or enters “the parking lot,” possibly for reading later. This system seldom promotes books that are not worthy.
- Finally, the group is made up of dedicated readers who put real time into reading.
If this sounds a little grim, believe me, it is not! A wonderful sense of humor and lightness distinguishes my group. Sunday, for a discussion of my book Little Brother, we all wore hats—and how becoming they were, reminding me of the reason women wore hats daily in previous generations…
Another possibility to consider.
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Postscript: Sallie’s eighteenth book, Little Brother: A Memoir, was published last month by Sarabande Books. For more on Sallie and her work, please visit her website: www.salliebingham.com .