Many of today’s seniors began participating in book clubs when they were in their 20s, and it’s an activity that they still actively participate in today. When Pat Tharp moved into Presbyterian Village North (PVN) in 2003, she started the senior living community’s Book Review club and has been organizing opportunities for fellow residents to hear from reviewers since the club’s inception. Joan McClure recently partnered with Barbara Baker to help facilitate the community’s Read and Talk club, which was started by another resident several years ago. The women enjoy bringing fellow avid readers together for a time of fellowship. The Book Review club meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Read and Talk club meets on the third Wednesday of each month from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
“Ermance Rejebian was the inspiration that drove the creation of many book review clubs here in Dallas,” said Tharp. “She and her husband owned an oriental rug business, and after joining the Munger Place United Methodist Church she gained a reputation as a fantastic storyteller. In time, book clubs asked Rejebian to attend their meetings and deliver reviews of books, and thus spurred the dawn of a new era of book clubs; ones that didn’t require any reading. Rejebian became so popular that women started book clubs in her honor. These clubs meet all over in country clubs and houses. Here we are 75 years later, and these kinds of clubs still exist. I started one 15 years ago when I moved into PVN so that residents living at our community wouldn’t have to travel to other places to attend and enjoy a book review club.”
PVN’s Book Review club welcomes eight reviewers who make monthly visits between September and May. The meetings start with 30 minutes of fellowship, during which attendees enjoy Danishes and coffee, then the review begins and lasts for one hour. Some reviewers deliver a review on one book, and other reviewers, like the “Book Bag Lady,” deliver reviews on several books (12) within the given time. Last month, the club welcomed a professor from SMU who reviewed “The Autobiography of Teddy Roosevelt.” Attendees do not read the book before listening to the review. After hearing the review, they determine if the book is of interest and then they either buy it or borrow it from the library. Some people who attend do not read at all, but come for the mere entertainment of listening to the reviews. The club boasts 65 members, all of whom enjoy coming together for food, fellowship and the reviews. The reviewers all belong to the same group and meet during the summer to discuss which books they will read and review so as not to deliver reviews on the same books. Tharp books the reviewers a year in advance.
“I love reading because it expands the imagination, broadens one’s vocabulary, teaches us about the world and enlightens us on the cultures of others,” said Tharp. “Being a part of the Book Review Club is enlightening and interesting. It is also enjoyable to see how others respond to the review. I’ve been a part of book review clubs my entire married life. It was something women did if they lived in Dallas and didn’t work. I feel that now, women are still joining them, they are just joining them later on in life.”
While the Book Review club meets eight times a year, Read and Talk meets six times a year starting in September and going until May. Unlike the Book Review club, members of Read and Talk are given a list of books to read and dates upon which they plan to discuss the books. In March, members read and discussed “The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware. Since April is National Poetry Month, everyone will bring in a favorite or meaningful poem to share. For May, participants will read and discuss “Camino Island” by John Grisham. Though the reading is done by most, it is not required. The discussions lead to many interesting topics and points of view.
“The Read and Talk club has been going on for more than 10 years,” said McClure. “Given my interest in reading, I joined the club four years ago when I moved into PVN. Being a part of the club has been a fabulous way to meet people. We have about 15 people who come regularly. Barbara Baker and I were asked to organize the meetings this year when several of the original organizers became ill or moved away. Someone is assigned to lead the discussion and everyone throws out questions. We get to read books we might not read otherwise, and they lead to stimulating, thought-provoking discussions. This club opens the world for us; it gives us a fun escape and it teaches us about other cultures, ideas, values and realities.”
“We think it is wonderful that our residents are so driven and enthusiastic about organizing these book clubs,” said Bryan Cooper, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “We know the clubs brings fellow residents a lot of enjoyment, and we applaud these ladies for taking the initiative to keep the groups going. It is important to keep our minds active as we age, and reading is an amazing way to do so.”