EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - This ain't your grandma's book-of-the-month club. A group of longtime East Brunswick friends with big brains, lots of opinions, a few glasses of wine, and many, many comments have tackled a book a month for the past eight years. Starting with The Alchemist by Paul Coelho, that's around 96 all together -- quite an accomplishment, even if a reader only "skimmed" a few along the way.
There are a few retired teachers in this group that meets monthly at a member's East Brunswick home to discuss the reading on the table. For EB grads, there are a few familiar faces, including Kathy Spadafino, former music teacher and current director of the East Brunswick Community Chorus.
Carole Molchan, a retired math teacher from Piscataway High School and longtime EB resident, explained how the process of choosing, reading, and discussing works: "First we select a book from the available list put out by the Ocean County Public Library in Toms River. We read it. (Sometimes we listen to the audiobook or watch a current film of the novel.) Then we discuss it at our monthly meeting. Everyone gets a chance to speak with without interuption, giving a review of the book and expressing an opinion about it. Then we discuss it together and decide what, as a group, we got out of it."
The meetings are cordial and tasty, too - a social event built around discussion and reading. One reader admitted that "I didn't like the book until we discussed it" based on the fresh input of her peers. Some conversation is literary, regarding symbolism, character, and theme, but most is sociological and is based on readers' ideas about relationships and perspectives in the novel. "Ironcially," says, Mrs. Molchan, "the books we thought were bad led to the longest discussions."
Some favorites of the group included The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot; 1,000 White Women by Jim Fergus; The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; Sarah's Key adapted by Tatiana de Rosnay; The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls; and Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham.
Literary classics are included, too. The group admitted learning a great deal from an adult re-reading of Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, high school coming-of-age favorite. The most recent book discussed was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which earned mixed reviews, even with the presence of Mr. Darcy, model husband. It was a "loved it/hated it" thing with regard to this often-read novel. Happily, though, the group has a standing policy, according to Mrs. Molchan: "If you don't read the book, you have to bring a bottle of wine to the meeting"
During the discussion of the Jane Austen novel, there were four bottles of wine on the table. It was a win-win situation for the readers.