By Bill Thomas, For the San Clemente Times

As a lifetime educator, I consider the world of adult reading groups the most fulfilling of learning experiences. It encompasses participants’ lives, education, and interests, enabling one to be both a continuing learner as well as a contributor to overall group knowledge and interpretation of the written word. Certainly, it provides an additional form of further learning from common interest groups. It’s inexpensive, challenging and socially entertaining, but, most important, involvement provides further knowledge.

In a recent article, the March edition of Reader’s Digest cited reading “…as the perfect brain food,” insisting that it “…isn’t just filling your head—it’s nourishing it.” The article indicated that the latest science on the magic of books claimed that “…reading for your brain isn’t surprising.” That suggests that reading improves your brain in many ways: language reception through written materials to letters, words, and sentences to the stories themselves, encouraging the brain to work harder and better. It involves comprehension and insight and adds to a person’s memory. For example, a reader can mentally engage in any physical activity such as riding a horse in the forest, catching an accurate pass in a football game, landing a lively fish, or shopping for a diamond vicariously rather than actually. Close literary involvement provides a mental workout for your brain, which takes you into new literary adventures and enriches your old ones, including personal active experiences.

Even if you’re not a prolific reader, why not join or form a reading group? There are several in San Clemente. The library has two for both men and women: the Adult Book Group that meets the last Wednesday of each month and the Wicked Wednesday Book Group that meets on the second Wednesdays. The first concentrates on the most pleasurable literature of both fiction and non-fiction, while the more specific club Wicked Wednesdays cover mystery, crime, suspense, horror and more intense materials. Both groups provide considerable mental stretching and imagination in their choices.

San Clemente Gentleman’s Literary Society review of the book ‘Cattle Kingdom’ by Christopher Knowlton that members read in December. Photo: Courtesy of Bill Thomas
San Clemente Gentlemen’s Literary Society review of the book ‘Cattle Kingdom’ by Christopher Knowlton that members read in December. Photo: Courtesy of Bill Thomas

Women’s reading circles outnumber men’s. The American Association of University Women has three groups and the Assistance League has two. All five have flourished with reading endeavors relative to the members’ interests over the years. There are several other book-reading organizations for ladies active in our inquisitive city. You can explore “Orange County book clubs” on Google, and there’s quite a variety.

I also formed a book group 10 years ago: San Clemente Gentlemen’s Literary Society—a glamorous name for those of us who previously played senior tennis at our city’s former private club together. We now have an active membership of 20. Women are not allowed in our book group because, as we widely announce, “…they’re smarter than we are.” The real reason, however, is that men and women don’t always have the same reading interests. Our specific group thrives through our differences in backgrounds, growing up, traveling, professions and in countless additional ways. We learn from one another, not as single teachers in a classroom but as independent interpreters of books influenced by countless exposures in our own past and present lives.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve read and discussed 120 books together. At each club meeting, the next host announces the following month’s book, and each of us has a turn to individually express his opinion of the fiction, life story, mystery, history, war situation, politician’s experiences, or whatever we’ve collectively read for that evening session. Among the 12 books read in 2018 were Killers of the Flower Moon, Leonardo da Vinci, The Associates, The Space Barons, Beneath the Scarlet Sky and From Silk to Silicon.

Recently, I interviewed San Clemente head librarian Karen Wall, who informed me that as soon as material is received from another library, the desiring client is contacted and informed of its availability. The time involved with other libraries can range from a few days to a few weeks.

Wall, as both a librarian and San Clemente aesthetic, happily endorses book club participation throughout the community. The concept is affordable and brings people with mutual interests together. “It’s beautiful for people to come together to introduce various points of view and interpret together an author’s intended message,” Wall said. “It provides involvement and lively absorption.”

Want to start a book club in town? Just call a few friends with mutual interests and meet. It’s not too hard a process. Good luck. And, happy reading.

Bill Thomas is an occasional contributor to the San Clemente Times.

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