November 25, 2022

Library book clubs invite readers to push their limits

The Moab Book Club has met at least once a month for 37 years.

It started with a series of book talks hosted by the Humanities Council of Utah, which provided books and guest speakers. When the program ended, a few locals, including Cynthia Smith and Travis Trittschuh, decided to continue the book talks: They formed the Second Wednesday Book Club and met at the library every other Wednesday from 7-9 p.m.

“When some of our members got sick, we met at their homes, so they could be included,” Smith wrote in a summary of the club’s history. “We did this for Travis for several years until his death in 2007.”

Shortly after that year, the club officially became part of the Grand County Public Library. Now library staff work with book club members to provide free books and invite authors. Grand County’s other library, located in Castle Valley, also has its own book group.

Smith said there are typically five to eight people who join the Moab book discussion each month, and a few have been with the group since its inception.

“The members tend to be, for the most part, older people – they’re the ones who have the time,” Smith joked. “But we had a real group of people coming all the time and then there are people coming for a while but then they walk away or something. I’m not sure it’s changed that much – it’s just stayed the same, with different people participating.

In September, the club read “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which was popular – Smith said the “broad and interesting” discussion had 11 people. The club tries to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books, and invites everyone in and out: people can join the discussions or read the books of their choice. Smith said she tries to read every book, especially if it’s not the one she would have chosen for herself. She was also able to find some new favorites, like Sue Monk Kid’s “The Secret Life of Bees,” Jared Diamond’s “Collapse,” and Jack Weatherford’s “Genghis Khan: Making of the Modern World.”

“Reading a book for the purpose of sharing thoughts and impressions inherently changes and deepens the reading experience,” said Jessie Magleby, adult services manager at the Grand County Public Library. “…The love of reading is sometimes a skill that needs to be developed, and book clubs can help by exposing a reader to a wide variety of books, as well as deepening their understanding of the text.”

In October, the club reads Art Spiegelman’s “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust that was banned from being taught in classrooms by a Tennessee school board in January. .

The Castle Valley Reading Group meets the last Friday of the month at 9am. In October, they read “Our Eyes At Night”, by Mylène Dressler, and Dressler herself will join the discussion. According to Susan Roche, who has been with the group since moving to Castle Valley in 2012, the group’s history is murky: before the library collaboration 10 years ago, it only existed by chance, a much like that of Moab. Roche said the group is extremely grateful for the support of the Castle Valley Library.

“It’s amazing that we have this vibrant community center in such a small town,” Roche said. “They do a lot to help us coordinate with the Moab Library and get interlibrary loan from libraries across the country.”

The reading group serves as a place to meet new people and try new books, Roche said: Members generally believe books are worthwhile because they trust others’ nominations for books to read.

“Most people who come to the reading group have always been raving, raving readers all their lives,” she said. “But what’s happening here that’s different from all the other book groups I’ve been on is that we’re actually talking about the book. It’s not just about ‘who’s going to make the best snacks? “…People really try to read everything.

Roche also found that the group pushed her to read books she wouldn’t normally have, such as James C. Scott’s “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Early States” and Edwidge’s “The Dew Breaker.” Danticat. The Castle Valley band are also trying to switch between non-fiction and fiction, Roche said – “it’s such an exciting mix.” The group has a record of the books they’ve read since 2013; the list includes “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon, “Entangled Life” by Merlin Sheldrake and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown.

Group discussions typically last between an hour and a half and two hours and welcome all opinions on the books, Roche said.

“I think there’s just a drive that somehow translates into the way life is and continues to be in Castle Valley, a drive to look at things from all angles, and even though you disagree vehemently and passionately, you know we’re all neighbors, and we have something in common,” Roche said.

Learn more at, at the Grand County Library, by contacting [email protected], or by joining the discussions on Wednesday, October 12 at 6 p.m. in Moab or Friday, October 12 October 28 at 9 a.m. in Castle Valley.