June 24, 2003 - PCOL Exclusive: RPCVs organize Peace Corps Book Club

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, June 25, 2003 - 1:13 pm: Edit Post

RPCVs organize Peace Corps Book Club

Read and comment on this exclusive story on the Atlanta RPCVs and their bi-monthly book club. Thanks to Carolyn Davis (Brazil 64-66) for providing us with information about the Atlanta Peace Corps Book Club. Read the story at:

Atlanta RPCVs organize Peace Corps Book Club*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Atlanta RPCVs organize Peace Corps Book Club

Since 1988 an off-shoot of the Returned Peace Corps Group in Atlanta has had their own book club. The group has 12 to 13 members and most are former Peace Corps Volunteers - but not all. The group meets every two months. Each year the group selects several members to read and select books, one member to plan menus and selected recipes, and one member to schedule the meetings, send the announcements and choose the place of the meeting.

Members take turns hosting the meetings in their homes. Since there are are about 12 members and they read six books a year, each member hosts a meeting once every two years. At the meetings, the menu is based on the country of the selected book - everyone brings a covered dish with recipes provided by the menu planner. The benefits of the group are that members read things that they would never know about or chose to read, the discussions are wonderful, and the food and fellowship are great.

If you and fellow RPCVs are interested in starting your own Peace Corps Book Club send out an announcement to your local RPCV group and see who is interested. Look further down on this web page for a story on how to get started with your Book club. Here is a list of the books that the Atlanta RPCVs have read and discussed over the past fourteen years to give you some ideas on what to get started with.


Sept. - The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera - Czechoslovakia - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel García Marquez - Colombia - Latin America


January - Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie - India - Asia/Pacific

March - Anthills of the Savanna - Chinua Achebe - Nigeria - Africa

May - The Black Box - Amos Oz - Israel - Middle East

July - Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich - Native American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov - Russia - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende - Chile - Latin America


January - Spring Snow - Yukio Mishima - Japan - Asia/Pacific

March - Kaffir Boy - Mark Mathabane - South Africa - Africa

May - The Beginning and the End - Naguib Mafouz - Egypt - Middle East

July - The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan - Chinese American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy - Russia - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - Aunt Julia and the Script Writer - Mario Vargas Llosa - Peru - Latin America


January - The Bone People - Keri Hulme - New Zealand - Asia/Pacific

March - Waiting for the Barbarians - J.M. Coetzee - South Africa - Africa

May - The Ship - Jabara I. Jabara - Iraq/Palestine - Middle East

July - The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love - Oscar Hijuelos - Cuban American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - Ada - Vladimir Nabokov - Russia - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - A Change of Skin - Carlos Fuentes - Mexico - Latin America


January - The Guide - R.K. Narayan - India - Asia/Pacific

March - July's People - Nadine Gordimer - South Africa - Africa

May - Palace Walk - Naguib Mafouz - Egypt - Middle East

July - The Manor - Isaac B. Singer - Jewish American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - Dead Souls - Nikolai Gogol - Russia - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - A House for Mr. Biswas - V.S. Naipaul - India - Asia/Pacific


January - Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands - Jorge Amado - Brazil - Latin America

March - Ake: The Years of Childhood - Wole Solinka - Nigeria - Africa

May - Palace of Desire - Naguib Mafouz - Egypt - Middle East

July - Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston - African American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad - Poland - Russia/E. Europe - Warren

Nov. - This Earth of Mankind - Pramoedya Ananta Toer - Indonesia - Asia/Pacific


January - Gray Skies Tomorrow - Silvia Molina - Mexico - Latin America

March - The Famished Road - Ben Okri - Nigeria - Africa

May - Sugar Alley - Naguib Mafouz - Egypt - Middle East

July - The Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison - African American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - The First Circle - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - Russia - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - Heat and Dust - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala - India - Asia/Pacific


January - How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent - Julia Alvarez - Dominican Republic - Latin America

March - The Road to Mecca - Athol Fugard - South Africa - Africa

May - Fima - Amos Oz - Israel - Middle East

July - Ceremony - Leslie Marmon Silko - Native American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - Immortality - Milan Kundera - Czech Republic - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - A Personal Matter - Kenzaburo Oe - Japan - Asia/Pacific


January - The Storyteller - Mario Vargas Llosa - Peru - Latin America

March - The Antipeople - Marcel Sony Labou Tansi - Zaire - Africa

May - Memed My Hawk - Yasar Kemal - Turkey - Middle East - Warren - Warren

July - The Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison - African American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - The Idiot - Fyodor Doestoyevsky - Russia - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - The Obscene Bird of Night - José Donoso - Chile - Latin America


January - Remembering Babylon Malouf - Australia - Asia/Pacific

March - None to Accompany Me - Nadine Gordimer - South Africa - Africa

May - Shira - S.Y. Agnon - Israel - Middle East

July - Native Son - Richard Wright - African American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - Cosmos and Pornografia - Witold Gombrowicz - Poland - Russia/E. Europe

Nov. - Paula - Isabel Allende - Chile - Latin American


January - The Moor's Last Sigh - Salman Rushdie - India - Asia/Pacific

March - Texaco - Patrick Chamoiseau - Martinique - Africa (diaspora)

May - Bastard Out of Carolina - Dorothy Allison - American - Ethnic N. America

July - Cities of Salt - Abdeirahman Munif - Saudi Arabia - Middle East

Nov. - The God of Small Things - Arundahti Roy - India - Asia/Pacific


January - Dreams of My Russian Summers - Andrei Makine - Russia - Russia/E. Europe

March - Crystal Frontier - Carlos Fuentes - Mexico - Latin America

May - See Under: Love Grossman - Israel - Middle East

July - Yellow Raft on Blue Water - Michael Dorris - Native American - Ethnic N. America

Sept. - An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro - Japan - Asia/Pacific

Nov. - Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe - Nigeria - Africa


January - Summer of Betrayal - Hong Ying - China - Asia/Pacific

March - Death in the Andes - Mario Vargas Llosa - Peru - Latin America

May - Broken April - Ismail Kadare - Albania - Russia/E. Europe

July - Secrets - Nuruddin Farah - Somalia - Africa

Sept. - My Year of Meats - Ruth Ozeki - Japanese American - Ethnic N. America

Nov. - Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills - Latife Tekin - Turkey - Middle East


January - Waiting - Ha Jin - China - Asia/Pacific

March - Gabriela, Cinnamon and Clove - Jorge Amado - Brazil - Latin America

May - The Ultimate Intimacy - Ivan Klima - Czech Republic - Russia/E. Europe

July - Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith - Gina Nahai - Iran - Middle East

Sept. - The Radiance of the King - Camara Laye - Guinea - Africa

Nov. - A Gesture Life - Chang-Rae Lee - Korean American - Ethnic N. America


January - A Journey to the End of the Millenium - A.B. Yehoshua - Jewish diaspora - Middle East

March - Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee - South Africa - Africa

May - The Death of Vishnu - Manil Suri - India - Asia/Pacific

July - Death and the Penguin - Andrei Kurkov - Ukraine - Eastern Europe

Sept. - Reservation Blues - Sherman Alexie - Spokane - Ethnic N. America

Nov. - Before Night Falls - Reinaldo Arenas - Cuba - Latin America,


January - My Name Is Red - Orhan Pamuk - Turkey - Middle East

March - Embers - Sandor Marai - Hungary - Eastern Europe

May - A Wild Sheep Chase - Haruki Murakami - Japan - Asia/Pacific

Interested in starting your own book club?

Read more from this story from Deleware Online about starting your own book club at:

Local Book Clubs are Thriving

Local Book Clubs are Thriving

By Pam George, Contributing Writer

It's 10 a.m. on a Monday, and six women sit near the computer book section in Barnes & Noble in Wilmington. Not surprisingly, they're discussing books. But that's not all. They're also examining Victorian society, life in the early 20th century – even funeral arrangements.

The women are members of the Brandywine Edition (formerly Welcome Wagon) book club, which meets monthly. The book, appropriately, is "And Ladies of the Club," a novel that looks at 50 years of small-town life through the eyes of book club members.

"We delve into characters, and try to understand their motives," says Sheila Quercetti, the club chairman. "Today we got off on a tangent – we discussed how when someone died, you used to have the funeral in the home. Traditions change."

Most of the club's members are over 50, Quercetti says. One member is 70. Along with lively exchanges, friendship is a club benefit. "It's a way of meeting people who have an interest in reading," she says.

Books clubs are comprised of people who regularly meet to discuss books that everyone has read. The concept is hardly new. The intelligentsia gathered in Parisian salons to debate the latest tomes. In "And Ladies of the Club," in which the story starts after the Civil War, the heroines are honored to join a group.

But it wasn't until 1996 that book clubs experienced a major resurgence. Credit Oprah Winfrey, whose monthly selections sent viewers racing to bookstores. When she chose Andre Dubus' book "House of Sand and Fog," the publisher printed 850,000 new copies to ship to bookstores. The book previously had sold just 140,000 copies.

Winfrey in April shocked viewers, when she pulled the plug on her club. Happily, there's no shortage of places for literature lovers to get their fix. For one, there are media-sponsored venues. Kelly Ripa of "Live with Regis and Kelly" debuted her "Reading with Ripa" segment on May 21. "USA Today" and NBC's "Today" show also promote book clubs. There also are online groups and chat rooms.

Yet some literary lovers would rather debate a book's merits face-to-face. No problem. There are plenty of local places for bookworms to gather. Some groups meet in libraries and book retailers. Others meet in homes.

Regardless of the venue, members agree that clubs let them share a passion: reading. Granted not everyone has the same tastes. Which is why some groups specialize. Borders in Wilmington, for instance, hosts a romance readers group and a mind, body and spirit group.

The Great Books Council of Delaware discusses books that "have stood the test of time," says Cyra Gross, a member since the 1960s. The council is an offshoot of the Great Books Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that offers a structured reading program. The group has read Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations," Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" and Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle."

At the Wilmington Library, a monthly group reads books that fall within a pre-selected topic, such as the Holocaust. Other topics have included "Victorian soap operas." The group read novels by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

"There's an intellectual challenge in the selections," says Judith Calhoun, a retired school administrator, who began attending in 1997. "I really enjoy having a focus to my reading. It makes me a more careful reader."

The Hockessin Library's group is more general. As is Quercetti's club. Members put selection ideas on slips of paper, and there is a drawing.

Ann Murphy, community relations manager for Barnes & Noble, has found that nonfiction-oriented clubs increasingly are popular. The store hosts a travel book group and a "powerful speaking" club, which concentrates on public speaking and presentation skills.

Like genres, formats also run the gamut. Members of the public speaking club discuss the selected book, which might focus on acting skills or positive visualization, says leader Kelly DeCesare. Afterward, they may practice performance exercises.

The Great Books Council has a "disciplined type of discussion," Gross says. "We don't get sidetracked. We discuss the book first and then anything else we want."

The Wilmington Library session, made up mostly of retirees, lasts two hours. Since it's held at noon, members often bring lunch. For about half of the session, the leader, a University of Delaware film and literature professor, offers insight. Some people take notes, Calhoun says. A discussion follows.

Most clubs have a designated leader. "They can guide with provocative questions," Gross explains. Where to find the questions? Try publisher Web sites, recommends Linda Rogers of the Hockessin Library. Consider Random House's reading group guides, www.randomhouse.com/resources/rgg.html.

Leaders also can monitor the discussion to ensure that one member does not dominate. Some people might feel, well, intimidated to comment on lofty material. There's no need, Gross says. If you can't bring educational expertise to the subject, apply the knowledge you've gained through your career or simply living life.

Discussions can get vigorous. "If 15 people read the same book, they don't always read the same words – even if the words are the same," Calhoun notes. But rarely do discussions get overheated. "Everybody is very courteous," Calhoun says. "There maybe are some people with strong points of view, but we never take it personally."

However, some do take offense when a member who has not yet read the book offers an opinion. "Everybody wants to scream at them," Calhoun says. The Great Books Council of Delaware nipped that problem in the bud. There is a rule: Members who have not read the book may attend meetings, but they may not discuss it.

The Brandywine Edition book club is less stringent. One member was only 100 or so pages into "And Ladies of the Club," a 1,184-page paperback. At least she could determine whether she wanted to read further. Members rate their selections on a scale of one to five, with five as the highest. They must then explain their decision.

Admittedly, participating in a club takes time. There are sessions, of course. There also is the reading. Calhoun, for one, reads her book club selections more carefully than she does her other reading.

And depending on the book club specialty, some of the stuff takes work. "I never would have read James Joyce's 'Ulysses.' It was difficult," Calhoun says. Thanks to the book club, she found it more enjoyable.

The Wilmington Library group has about 20 to 30 regular members. Attendance at meetings, though, varies. There are books that some members don't want to read. That is also the case with the Great Books Council of Delaware. "You can't put pressure on a member," Gross says.

A lack of time is one reason for the success of online and media-sponsored book clubs. Kelly Ripa's "Reading with Ripa" Web site, www. tvplex.go.com/buenavista/livewithregis/bookclub/, has information on the book and the author, as well as a message board. Oprah Winfrey still has a book discussion page on her Web site, www.oprah.com.

Interested in starting your own book club?

1. Decide on the genre: general or specific.
2. Determine if your club is open or closed. Write guidelines and requirements.
3. Set the day, time and frequency. Most book clubs meet at regular intervals, such as the third Tuesday of every month.
4. Determine a location.
5. Recruit. Post flyers at local bookstores and libraries. Tell friends, neighbors and associates. Remember, not everyone can always attend. To get a lively discussion going, you'll need a minimum amount of members, say five.
6. Choose books that appeal to the group. Make sure they're available in sufficient quantities.
7. Decide if you want a leader. Some groups stick to one; others rotate.
8. Pick a discussion format. Will it be enforced, and if so, how?


Web site Resources

The web site of the trade magazine 'Publisher's Weekly.' You'll find book reviews and author information.

Listings of online discussion group addresses and reference guides

Here are some basic Topics for Discussion

1. The author's purpose and style.
2. The plot.
3. The character development.
4. The setting and related historical data.
5. The theme.
6. Published reviews. Do you agree
or disagree?
7. Literary devices, including symbolism,
flashback or punctuation.
8. The members' responses

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Book Clubs; COS - Brazil



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