le cercle de lecture

Despite the diminishing number of brick and mortar bookstores, book clubs are everywhere and have been for centuries. The literary circles are so popular that Cookbooks like this and this are being written and marketed to help spice the discussion. And yes, I belong to a monthly book club and have for years. Ours is a French book club: all the books are in French, and the dinner discussion is in French. I usually enjoy the books, but they are sometimes a chore since I read more slowly in French than English (increasing my sympathy for my students). The mental workout and the cultural information that I gain from the books are valuable because I can transfer what I learn in book club to my classroom. But what makes book club a can’t-miss event for me is the company of the fabulous women who participate.  

Being a teacher, many things in my life make me feel old. Book Club makes me feel young! And I am far from the youngest in the crowd. Our youngest member just finished her PhD in Ethics, had a baby, and spent a year in Italy because her equally brilliant husband was doing research for a biography (that he’s being paid to write). She’s an inspiring young woman, and so are all the others. We have a few French teachers, bien sûr, but we also have lawyers, a social worker, a therapist, academic counselors, and an office manager for a huge engineering firm. All are vibrant, smart women who pursue their interests. One sings. One has run the New York and other marathons a few times. Another published a cookbook. Two volunteer with Election Protection. One of our native speakers just returned from Haiti– her latest trip to deliver eyeglasses with the Lyons club. Our ballet expert’s next trip won’t be to see a ballet but to go snorkeling in the Solomon islands. They have careers AND outside interests! These women are very well travelled. When we read Alexandra David Néel, our discussion revealed that five of the twelve women at the table had been to Tibet. One woman had been twice: first as a lovely young Frenchwoman in 1968 and then again 35 years later with her husband.

You’re probably wondering why they let me in? Well, they’re nice, and they like my cooking. And my garden. We share recipes and stories and theater reviews. We even discuss the books! Sometimes the smallest books elicit the best discussions, and sometimes classics that we enjoyed twenty years (or more!) ago don’t move us like before. Tastes change, but that doesn’t mean that we have to stop learning or trying new things! The women of this group remind me that there’s always something interesting going on in the world, even right around the corner, and that so many things deserve a closer look. They inspire me to keep trying to make things happen.

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