Book club spotlight: ‘Books & Stuff’ club, Vandalia

A book club can be a wonderful way to make new friends.

Just ask Mary Anderson.

After living in Plain City for more than 50 years, Mary and her husband moved to Vandalia.

“I felt disconnected and lonesome for my former community and friends,” she said. That all changed when she decided to visit the Vandalia Senior Center.

“On that very first visit, I was invited to join the book club,” she said. “My love of reading and the warmth of the women who gave me information about the club made me decide to give it a try. It has been a rewarding experience — leading to new friends and new activities.”

The name of the club is “Books and Stuff.” The “stuff” refers to the other things that are sometimes discussed — interesting vacations, concerts, plays and museum exhibits.

“The sharing is so well presented with photos and memorabilia that you become immersed and feel as if you have actually been there,” Anderson said.

Common threads

Anderson said she believes there are common threads that hold the members of her group together: their lifetime love of reading, age and a vibrancy for life and eagerness to keep an open mind and seek new knowledge.

“This club is so interesting because the members come from various careers,” Anderson explained. “There are several former educators, a florist, and two members had long careers in banking and accounting. Some members were stay-at-home mothers.”

Charlene Gratz is a former docent at The Dayton Art Institute.

“She’s a storehouse of knowledge and provides us with information about the art of various time periods and cultures found in books,” Anderson said.

There are also several world travelers in the group.

“Linda Rose visited Egypt prior to the disruptions there,” Anderson said. “When we read ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, our member, Shelly Eagle, gave us an inside picture of the adventure of hiking. She has experienced hiking and her knowledge about the highs and possible dangers made this book come alive. I especially thought her descriptions of nature were exquisite and made the author’s book enjoyable.”

How it works

Books & Stuff meets in the afternoon on the second and fourth Mondays, from January through November. Meetings are at the Vandalia Senior Center — at 1 p.m. in the summer and 3 p.m. beginning in September.

Each member can volunteer to lead a discussion on a book of her choice. Everyone reads the chosen book of the month.

“The discussions are informal and very lively; interrupting a speaker is not considered rude, but thought to be invigorating to the discussion,” Anderson said. “All opinions are respected.”

Club moderator Jeanne Woolery was involved in the creation of the book club eight years ago. Members say she does a great job of keeping the discussion moving and on track.

Woolery also keeps a list of all books that have been read. The very first book, she recalls, was “The March” by E.L. Doctorow, a historical fiction novel about Sherman’s march through the South during the Civil War.

“Jeanne buys a lot of books and always puts them out for others to borrow,” Anderson said. “A lot of our members donate their books after we’ve discussed them.”

In order to encourage others to join the club and stimulate reading, a list of the books to be read are posted on the bulletin board at the center.

Other perks

You’ll also find a “rolling library” on wheels at the center, composed of books that have been donated by book club members. These books may be borrowed for a period of two weeks and renewed if there’s not a waiting list.

The club also has taken trips that relate to some of the books.

For example, a visit to Franklin, Tenn., followed the reading of “The Widow of the South” and “The Absolutely True Diary of A Part Time Indian” led to a trip to the Native American Museum in Indianapolis. A trip to Springfield, Ill., added appreciation to the book, “Killing Lincoln.”

After reading a biography of Frank Lloyd Wright, the group visited the Westcott House in Springfield.

“The architecture of the house matched his unconventional life,” Anderson noted.

Some favorites

Many of the group’s favorite books have been about history. The 2013 reading list included time-honored books like “So Big” and “My Antonia.” It also included “The Casual Vacancy,” “Hellhound On His Trail” and “A Place More Kind Than Home.”

Member Joyce Wysong said that “Pillars of the Earth,” “Nomad” and “Sarah’s Key” were the most memorable for her.

Pat Loechel says she picked up “Letters of A Portuguese Nun” at an airport bookstore and brought it to the group for discussion although she didn’t feel the information in the book was well documented.

“The first book that I brought to the club was Tim O’Brien’s ‘The Things They Carried,’ Anderson said. “It is a very moving story that depicts the horrors of war and the many after-effects on those who go into battle and also their families. I found this book on the list of writers who are awarded The Dayton Literary Peace Prize.”

The group also reads some unusual books such as “The Strange Case Of Edward Gorey.”

“Gorey’s stories were told primarily in clever drawings and a short story,” Anderson explained. “This book was so much fun as we discussed what the drawings said to each of us.”

Open to all

You don’t have to reside in Vandalia to join the Books & Stuff book club. Anyone is welcome.

Meetings are held at the Vandalia Senior Center, 21 Tionda Drive in Vandalia. Sessions are at 1 p.m. in the summer and 3 p.m. beginning in September. The next meeting — a “stuff” meeting — is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 27.

“At a ‘stuff’ meeting, no book is assigned. We’ll talk about books we’ve read on our own, and members can talk about trips, a play, a museum, or an article that was in the paper,” Anderson said. “The ‘stuff’ gets to be lively and really interesting.”

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