We have a lot of serious book lovers at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge. That’s why, when so many other activities had to be curtailed during the pandemic, one drew more participants than ever.
That was the WCBR Book Group. Or rather, Book Groups, plural. That’s because with so many people having so much more time than usual on their hands, the group had a surge in participation. And since the members liked to keep the group at 10 or fewer – you get better participation that way – a second group was created.
And not only were there more people, but unlike with so many other associations and activities, their routine was never interrupted. They still met together, in person, in the Blue Ridge Room – a spacious expanse where they could socially distance, but still share literary fellowship.
The groups are led by residents Nancy Bonner and Jenny Gaden, who divide organizational responsibilities between them. Nancy makes sure the room is reserved, and Jenny sends announcements for the Happenings newsletters. They work together on gathering recommendations from members on what to read in the coming months, and asking the groups to vote on them.
Beyond that, they keep things pretty loose. The discussions are informal – no one prepares a presentation. They just get together and start talking about the book, and the conversation goes where it will go.
Nancy has been involved since a few months after she moved to WCBR about seven years ago. It was natural for her – she had belonged to book clubs pretty much everywhere she had lived, from Chicago to Washington, D.C, to Colorado. “It’s fun, and I’ve enjoyed being in book groups.”
Before long, she was running it. “The leader at the time was not in good health,” she found. Since no one else volunteered, “I just stepped up and said, I’ll lead this group!”
“I like books that tell me about human life, something about culture,” she says. “I like novels. If I learn something or feel something, that’s the kind of book I want to read.” Some of her favorite books the group has read over the years include:
Jenny Gaden is a more recent recruit. She moved to WCBR back in September, and decided she would join when she saw the group was reading a book that particularly interested her: The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson. NPR described it as “a sprawling, gripping account of Winston Churchill’s first year as prime minister of the United Kingdom.”
Shortly after she got involved, a lot more people signed up. That’s when they had to split into two groups, because as Nancy said, “book discussion groups shouldn’t be too large,” and people didn’t want to be on a waiting list.
Here’s what they’ve read in the last few months:
In July, it will be Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver and in August, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.
Now, they’re seeking votes for what they will read the six months after that. And then the new list will come out.