Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 21, 2013

Finding a reading niche

Book clubs in Tri-State to suit a variety of tastes

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — Despite technological advancements, reading never goes out of style for a good portion of the area’s population.

Readers enjoy talking about what they’ve read and there are many opportunities for discussion, as well as guidance in what to read, through book clubs and readers groups.

Jesse Stuart


Judith Kidwell, administrative assistant at the Jesse Stuart Foundation, helps James Gifford, CEO of the foundation, in developing  reading lists and communicating with members of the Regional Readers group.

“We have brief discussions in the office about the current book we’re reading and usually work together to consider the opening discussion question,” she said. “And, I make the coffee.”

She said they compile lists from books at the foundation and take group feedback in determining what they will read.

The group, which started in 2004, typically attracts 10 or 12 per meeting.

“Dr. Gifford started Regional Readers to fulfill a New Year’s self-improvement resolution and he wanted to help others resolve to commit to improving their minds,” she said. “A goal of the group is to help readers become good examples to others who will be inspired by them to read and to learn.”

The group focuses on books by Kentucky and Appalachian authors, such as Jesse Stuart, Wendell Berry, Rick Bragg, Tim Callahan, Harry M. Caudill, Fred Chappell, Billy C. Clark, Allan W. Eckert, Janice Holt Giles, Homer Hickham, Silas House, Barbara Kingsolver, Bobbie Ann Mason, Elizabeth Madox Roberts and James Still. 

“We’ve also read local writers, such as Jim Anderson, Bob Barnett and Stacy Nelson, Sam Piatt,” she said.

The foundation, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, is at  1645 Winchester Ave. in Ashland. For more information, call (606) 326-1667.

Boyd County

Public Library

Six reading groups are offered through the Boyd County Public Library and one more might be on the horizon.

At the main branch, there is a reading group that focuses on the classics, Amanda Clark said. The group meets at 6 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month with 10 to 15 attending.

“They like the classics: ‘The Musketteers,’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ ‘My Antonia,’” she said.

Barb Biggs, branch manager at Catlettsburg, said the three to five members of Catlettsburg Readers Group read fiction and meet at 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.,” Biggs said. “The books are chosen from a list that a staff member puts together. They generally pick them three months in advance so we can make sure that we can order them.” This month, the group is reading “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton.

She said the group is relaxed and doesn’t really have a leader.

“We don’t have a staff member that participates with them — they lead themselves and are very relaxed,” she said.

Clark, at main, said she is the leader of Novel-Tea, which began as a senior women’s book club but is not longer just for women who are seniors.

Meeting at 1 p.m. the last Monday of each month, the group of 10 or 11 enjoys tea and cookies, provided by the library, and talks about their most recent read, which is usually a first novel and often of a new writer.

She said the group’s taste is varied and unpredictable.

“For the most part, people like what we read,” she said, noting a few exceptions. “One of my favorite books ever is ‘As I Lay Dying’ by William Faulkner. I think it’s comical, but three quarters of my book club did not appreciate the humor.”

She said they are united in their dislike of a book called “Dear American Airlines” by Jonathan Miles, which is a novel written like a collection of letters from a “deadbeat dad” to his daughter while he is stranded in an airport on his way to her wedding.

Clark said members like to read traditional paper books and she does, too, but she also reads some books on an ereader.

“We read a book not long ago that had different formatting in the text and I had it on my Kindle and read it that way and there were a lot of parts that didn’t make sense,” she said. “I got discouraged and it made me crazy so I said when we met, ‘Somebody let me see your book.’”

She said either way, being a part of a book club encourages her to read.

“I have read in spurts but for me, I know I have a book club meeting coming up, so I will sit down and read,” she said. “It keeps me in the habit of reading every day and also encourages people to read outside of the type of book they would normally pick up.”

Boyd County’s library offers other specialty reading groups.

Bryan Greene is the leader of Let’s Get Graphic!, which focuses on graphic novels, which are collections of comic books republished in a book format.

The group, which has about  five to seven attendees per meeting, gets together at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

In its third year, Let’s Get Graphic! readers read traditional paper books. Greene leads discussions about what they read.

“Sometimes it can be difficult to get people to open up, but normally its not hard to get people to say what they thought of the book after a few people have voiced their opinions on it,” he said.

In picking books for the group, Greene said he looks for “books that are accessible to readers new to the characters they are about. Main stream comic book characters normally have long standing past, so just jumping into it can be a lot to take in for new readers.”

The Last Writes, which meets at 6 p.m. the last Thursday of the month at the main branch, began last fall when Jan Ratliff and one participant met, but the group has since grown.

“I grew up reading scary books and watching horror movies,” Ratliff said. “When I was growing up, there wasn’t a library with this type of book club and Boyd County Public Library had never had one. There are many people who love this genre, so I knew it would be a great idea.”

She said she chooses books based on the authors she likes and also on what reviews sound interesting but said she hopes more readers will start attending the club and then, participants will have more input on the reading list.

“I choose books and authors that aren’t considered mainstream or well-known,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong — I love reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but unless someone requests one of their books, I probably wouldn’t select theirs.

“I want to expose readers to new authors as well as those who have been around awhile but they’ve never heard of.  Some of the authors we’ve read so far include Bentley Little, Genaro Zamora and Jools Sinclair.”

So far, none of the Last Writes members are horror writers but they are all great fans of the genre.  If any writers join, I would encourage the group to read their works.

The main branch will offer a new group called Teen Books for Adults. The initial meeting will be at 6 p.m. May 21.

Leader Amy Colegrove, information specialist, said she has always enjoyed teen books and hopes there are other adults who do, too, and who will want to be a part of suchc a group.

“I’m 34 and all I read is young adult because I don’t want to read about myself,” she said. “In talking to patrons, we realized a lot of adults are reading young adult material and I learned of another library that has this reading gorup so we thought, why not?”

She said she believes adults like young adult novels because they are so divergent from everyday life.

“We can look at our dirty laundy and house that needs cleaned. We can look at that every day. We just want something that takes us somewher else,” she said.

For more information about Boyd County Public Library, call (606) 329-0090.

Greenup County Public Library

Whether it’s timing or luck, the reading group at the McKell branch of the Greenup County Public Library has consistently drawn about a dozen readers for the last three years.

The group meets at 11 a.m. on the third Thursday of each month, librarian Sue Evans said.

“We have a snack and they get their tummies full and then we discuss the book,” Evans said. “Sometimes we don’t hit the book at all.”

Evans and Joyce Carter started the group and have maintained the originial members, adding one or two over the years.

“We’re real proud of ourselves because this (group) has held together,” she said.

Mainstream fiction, such as works by Nicholas Sparks and Mary Higgins Clark, makes up the reading list. Evans said the library is able to borrow books from the state library system.

Evans said everyone is welcome to the group.

For more information, call the McKell branch of the Greenup County Public Library at (606) 932-4478.

Coffee Tree Books

Grant Alden at Coffee Tree Books in Morehead said reading groups have been ongoing at the store for years.

The morning reading group, which has about a dozen members, meets at 11 a.m. on the third Thursday of the month.

The evening reading group meets at 7 p.m. on the last Thursday of the month.

The store also has a mystery reading group which meets with about six at 6:45 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month.

Alden’s preferred group reads non-fiction; those three or four readers meet at 10 a.m. on “a Saturday we can agree on.”

He said the leader of the group will pitch an idea for what to read and the group ultimately decides the reading list.

“At one point, we had a Skype from Simon and Schuster that pitched books to the group,” he said. “But that’s not the norm.”

He said technology doesn’t come into play much in the groups.

“We’re selling paper books here and no one has had the temerity to bring in an ereader,” he said, noting the store does, however, sell some ebooks through the Kobo app.

“We’re not unmindful of new technology, but most of the poeple in the reading groups are people of mature years and we who are over 50 are not as inclined to embrace new technology.”

The store, at 159 E. Main St., is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call (606) 784-8364 or visit coffeetreebooks.com.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.