One of the most intimate things that a person can do is read a book. It is you and the words of the writer. Just you and the story. You have this time to just be by yourself and go into another world of fiction or non-fiction You can be on a crowded train, reading a book, and it is still about you and the words. It does not matter if it is in book form, or an e reader, or an audio book—it is just one book and you.

For some people, there is a desire to talk about the book. There are certain books that demand to be discussed, readers may have many questions about a story. They want to know if others thought the same thing about a character. Did they agree with the way the plot changed? And what did you think about the ending? If you read a mystery, it is even a more compelling need to talk to someone.

I have seen complete strangers start to talk to each other because of the book they are reading or holding in their hand. Books are a great ice breaker, a way to find common ground. What does a person do if they love books and want to talk to others who feel the same way? They join a discussion group. These groups are very popular around the world and come in all varieties. There are some at bookstores, private homes, churches and public libraries.

I am a librarian who not only loves books, but also loves talking about books That is why I write book reviews, because I have to tell people about what a great book I just read. In 1999, I started a book group at the library where I worked. It was a fabulous mix of people who had a passion for reading and took great joy in talking to others about books. They also came to the group because they wanted to hear other opinions about a novel. Discussion groups are not only about talking but also about listening. This book group was a great success and ran for eleven years, until I left my job to move to The Netherlands.

The need to share books did not end when I moved. The joy that I got when I started a new book never left meand so I knew when the time was right, that I would try to reach out to readers again.

Recently, a new book discussion group has started…the Dutch version of what we had done  in America. It was strange to think about a roomful of strangers and that they would likely be Dutch. I knew that they spoke English, as this group was publicized as an English discussion. But it was still very daunting to me as I did not know if a Dutch reader would be like an American reader—would they want to share their thoughts? I did know that the Dutch people were not shy about sharing their opinions, they are known for even being a little blunt. There was a very positive response to the sign up for the group and we were off and running.

Our first night of the Dutch Book Circle was just wonderful. It was a great group of readers from all walks of life. They were all women (no surprise) and almost everyone was Dutch. The big shock was that all the women, except three, read the book in English. This really shocked me and impressed me. Their language skills were excellent, rarely did anyone struggle with the English. And what was I worried about?! We had a two hour discussion and not one single dull moment. This was a very thoughtful group of women who were bright and curious and were ready to talk. The bonus for the evening, was that they were really nice and friendly.

This is something that did not happen in America—at 10pm, almost all the women got on their bicycles and rode home. Or they went home by car, bus or train.  There are some things that are very different and some things are the same. The bottom line is that no matter what country you live in, people love to read and there are readers who want to talk about a book that they either liked or didn’t like.  And how impressive are the Dutch? The book I have selected for the Book Circle are all translated into Dutch, but most of these participants want to read the book in the original language, which is English. How many people can say that?

I think this is the beginning of a whole new adventure for me and for this new group of friends.

What book did we discuss?  THE HELP by Katherine Stockett. Our next book will be THOSE WHO SAVE US by Jenna Blum. Read the book and be part of the conversation.

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  • zeldesse  On November 2, 2012 at 9:16 am

    It was indeed a wonderful evening, and am looking forward to the next one! I was thinking, is it an idea to make a Facebook page for all the participants? So we can keep in touch and maybe share what else we are reading, between the meetings. I could do that if you like.
    Greetings, Hanne.

  • Sandra  On November 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Jane, I’m so glad you found such a wonderful group, and that they found you. Love the image of the 10pm bicycle riders. Thanks.

  • Holly Anne  On November 6, 2012 at 1:46 am

    Hi Jane, Awesome that the Book Circle went well. I knew it would because you are such a great leader. I am so happy for you. I hope you make many friends and it continues for a long time. Holly Anne

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