I’m a book person—let me establish that straightaway. Although I am, admittedly, as dependent on my smartphone and iPad as anyone else in this digital age, there is just something about a book that cannot be replaced. The heralding crack of the spine when you open one for the first time, the torn pulp edges of an old hardback whose pages were at one time fused together. . . When I open a borrowed book and press my nose into its seams, I am taken back to my earliest trips to the public library—teetering on a creaking stepstool before the motley rows of tomes, running my fingers across a phalanx of gilt titles I’d come to know the same way you know the furniture in your own home—their familiarity a comfort to me as I grew up in an accelerating world. I loved the hushed grandiosity— you can take home as many as you’d like. It was a guilty pleasure indulged by teachers and parents alike. . . as I cut my literary teeth on Wind in the Willows, my father would recite poetry at bedtime; and though the meanings were often far above my pay grade, the cadence and beauty of the language was not—The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold, and his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold. I didn’t yet know about anapestic tetrameter, hadn’t yet been instructed to explicate a poem phrase by phrase and extract its multilayered meanings (those labors of love came later, as an English major). All I knew was that there was power in those black shapes on paper—that those abstract little squiggles of ink, when linked together, were forces with which to be reckoned. I’m a book person.
And, as any book person will tell you, part of the pleasure of reading is the introversion it requires. When you read, it’s just the author’s visions inside your mind. It’s a solitary, usually a cozy and comfortable pursuit, one we are loath to engage in when others are around. And yet, when a good book is finished, there is such a desire to share it with someone. . . to have a friend read it—if not to discuss it, then just to partake of the same magic, like pouring glasses from the same bottle of wine. So you can reflect on it in the company of another who appreciates literature. It’s why book clubs are so popular, I think.
Lakewood’s book club has been going strong for over ten years—far longer than I’ve been a part of it. Its facilitation has passed through several staff members’ hands, and its membership has waxed and waned. The picks have ranged from lofty literary masterpieces to the fluffiest popular novels. But the one thing that has remained consistent is the camaraderie between its members. Right now, our club boasts twelve members, women whose life experiences have been disparate enough to bestow the club with a dozen different filters through which to view any given book. Our ages, backgrounds and politics are varied. There is the farm girl who explains hog-killing with a tinge of trauma that we may not have otherwise fully grasped. The missionary who relates how children raised abroad have trouble acclimating to American mores. The teacher whose career took root in the Southern soil of integration. . . Each woman brings something different to the table and, whether we all loved the book of the month, all hated it, or can’t quite seem to see eye to eye, we never fail to have a dynamic conversation, lots of laughter and respect for the new perspectives to which we are introduced. And, every month, we walk away feeling gratified that there are other book people out there– people who love nothing better than to curl up by themselves and gaze into glyphs on paper.
Author Sarah Griffin is the Program Coordinator for Independent Living at Lakewood Manor. When she’s not planning activities for her day job, she’s busy playing Legos with the two young sons who are the joy of her life (but make it very hard to find time to read a book in peace and quiet).