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Library Book Club: A Place For 'Beautiful Learning With Friends'



Simon is an associate at Algiers Regional Library and leads the monthly West Bank Book Club. Reach him at

The West Bank Book Club at the Algiers Regional Library is, of course, open to all comers, but like any good club, it has something of the feel of a secret society.  

This is, perhaps, the nature of all good book clubs, and one reason they are popular. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a secret society — a unique group with a special purpose, one that takes on a life of its own when its members come together? And one that confers a special status on each of its members — that of a welcome fellow traveler who shares a special appreciation. 

As one West Bank Book Club member, put it, “I love to talk about books, and there is nothing quite like the energy that comes from a gathering of readers discussing books.” 

Perhaps another reason people like book clubs is that a book club meeting is so different from most of what we do in our lives day-to-day. We meet with people who are not our family members or coworkers, and we talk about people, places, and events far removed from our own lives.  

The conversation is also different from any we have in the rest of our lives.  And we intend for it to be.  

What a rare thing to speak and have seven or eight other people listen at once, without interruption–people who have come, in part, to listen to what you have to say. A rare thing, as well, to be able to listen without interruption. To hear what others think, and, often, to find out how very different it is from what you thought. And there is a greater level of attention, as well, to the nonverbal parts of a conversation—the nod, the smile, the cocked head, the thoughtful frown.  

Do some of us talk too much? Yes. We do. I do. But we realize it, eventually, and reign ourselves in. And the others tolerate us until we do. But, even this perhaps provides an opportunity for learning –– about ourselves. 

How good are we at sticking to the purpose? At knowing what the purpose is? At knowing when we have something to say? At inviting others in?

This forum is perhaps also an opportunity to get better at making allowances when someone has said something that was not really what he had hoped to say, or used a tone she didn’t intend. 

Of course a book club is not the only place to learn these things, but it may be one of the best ones. 

Cherie, a veteran WBBC member, said, “I am always recruiting new members because it would be sad not to keep this beautiful learning with friends alive.”  

We meet every first Wednesday of the month at 4:00 p.m. at the Algiers Regional Library. Our next meeting is April 5, when will discuss A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines.

On May 3, we’ll meet again to talk about Cormack McCarthy’s The Passenger.

All are welcome. 

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