I was privileged to participate in a program called Leadership Montgomery six years ago. While I learned many lessons in that leadership development program and made many contacts, by far the most meaningful thing to come out of it was my book club, with five other women from my graduating class.
Now, I’ve never before this wanted to be in a book club. I liked to read what I felt like reading, when I felt like reading it. But this group changed my mind.
We like to think we’re one of the more eclectic book clubs around, reading not just bestsellers and book club favorites but a selection of sometimes not so well known fiction and non-fiction that invokes our curiosity and pleases and challenges us. We follow a hybrid of book club styles, meaning that there is dinner and lots of wine but we also thoroughly discuss the books.
Through the more than 30 books we’ve read together thus far we’ve endured family drama with some twisted, some endearing characters; we’ve experienced life as immigrants from Africa and China; we’ve lived as children in the slums of India. We’ve been betrayed by those we love; we’ve been up close and personal with the Loch Ness monster; we’ve been an abused wife with a dark heart; we’ve had a harrowing escape from North Korea.
We’ve grown up poor in Appalachia; we’ve been botanical explorers; we’ve been taxi drivers and maids; we’ve been spies in Iran. We’ve had magical adventures in the Amazon and Portugal; we’ve said yes to everything that scared us; we’ve journeyed across the country to find adoptive parents. We’ve nearly been killed pushing for girls’ education in Afghanistan; we’ve been Supreme Court justices, abolitionists, scientific miracles, and Bollywood brides.
Sometimes book club members host at their homes, sometimes at restaurants (we don’t judge). At our gatherings we’ve eaten Trinidadian cuisine, Persian cuisine, vegetarian Chinese and more. We always have dessert, unapologetically.
Through the friendships we’ve developed as members of the book club we’ve loved children and grandchildren; we’ve mourned mothers’ deaths; we’ve shared vicariously travels around the world; we've bemoaned political disasters. We’ve been caregivers; we’ve had spouses gravely ill; we’ve retired, both permanently and temporarily; we’ve taken on new challenges; we’ve struggled with jobs. We’ve painted, published, mediated, advocated for the environment, run companies, served our communities, loved our families, and lived rich and full lives.
We won’t let anything get in the way of attending our book club meetings, and if something comes up that will, we change the date so everyone can be there. The benefits are bifold—what we get from the books and what we get from each other.
Books We’ve Read
· State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
· Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
· A Time to Betray by Reza Kahlili
· Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
· I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
· My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
· The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
· The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi by Elif Safak
· The Vacationers by Emma Straub
· The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
· Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
· The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
· The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
· When We Were Friends by Tina Seskis
· Grace in the Gray Areas by Karen Kullgren
· At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
· Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
· The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
· The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
· The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
· Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin
· Even in Paradise by Elizabeth Nunez
· Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
· The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
· The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee
· The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
· Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
· All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
· Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
· A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman
· Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
· Sunburn by Laura Lippman