BY AMANDA ANDERSON MATTHEWS
Sweet Owen Contributor
When you think of book clubs, you might conjure images of women sipping wine and exchanging gossip. While that might be true for some, book clubs are more than just social gatherings; they are vibrant communities fostering social connections, expanding knowledge, and promoting literacy. In Owen County, book clubs have become a cornerstone of community engagement, bringing readers together to explore diverse literary worlds and share their thoughts. Whether you’re a mystery enthusiast, a fan of female protagonists, or someone seeking deep, meaningful discussions, Owen County has a book club tailored just for you.
The phenomenon of book clubs gained significant momentum when Oprah Winfrey introduced her book club in 1996. This initiative not only boosted book sales but also lent valuable support to authors and fueled a nationwide passion for reading. Many books now come equipped with discussion questions tailored for book clubs. Oprah’s selections span a diverse range of genres, enticing readers to venture beyond their usual comfort zones.
Notably, Reese Witherspoon has also embarked on her own literary journey by establishing a book club. Her mission is to spotlight books featuring female protagonists and support female authors. Additionally, prominent entities like PBS and The New York Times have created the “Now Read This” book club. Their book selections are based on the merit and timeliness of the content, offering readers an ideal gateway into the world of book clubs.
Owen County has fostered its own vibrant book club scene, mirroring a collective passion for reading and community-building. A prime source for bookish gatherings is the Owen County Library, which currently hosts two book clubs: “Books at Noon” and the “Mystery Book Club.” These clubs are expertly guided by librarian Lorraine Scott.
Books at Noon encompasses a wide array of genres, including general fiction, works by Kentucky authors, cozy mysteries, and historical fiction. The Mystery Book Club, as the name suggests, delves deep into the enigmatic world of mysteries. Despite the varied tastes of the participants, the sense of community is what keeps them coming back.
When asked about her favorite book from the “Books at Noon” club, Scott struggled to choose just one.
“That’s a tough choice,” she said. “John Hart’s ‘The Last Child’ was amazing. ‘Three Weeks to Say Goodbye’ by C.J. Box is a favorite.”
For Ann Bush, an Owen County resident, the allure of the Mystery Book Club extends beyond just the books.
“I just love to come to the library,” Bush explained. “I love to read; I read all the time.”
Books at Noon meets at the library at noon on the first Friday of each month. Upcoming selections for the club include “Hill Women” by Cassie Chambers in December and “Redbird Christmas” by Fannie Flagg in January.
The Mystery Book Club convenes on the third Friday of the month at 2 p.m., with upcoming titles including “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie and “The Last Noel” by Heather Grahm. You can find the meeting dates on the Owen County Public Library’s calendar.
In turn, the Owen County Senior Center boasts its own book club, designed for those aged 55 and above. This unique club meets at 11 a.m. every Monday at the Senior Center. What sets it apart is the discussion format; rather than reading the book beforehand, members dissect it together, ensuring a rich and engaging social calendar.
“Right now, we’re more focused on the holiday theme,” Owen County Senior Center Director Margina King said. “The members of the club decide what book they want to read every six months, with help from (Leah Reed) at the library.”
Their inaugural choice is “Unexpected Amish Christmas” by Rachel Good. With 10 members already signed up, anyone interested in joining is encouraged to reach out to King.
For those who prefer a more virtual approach, “The Radical Ladies Book Club” on Facebook provides a welcoming online space. This club includes women from Owen County and book lovers from across the nation. Each month, a group member selects a book for everyone to read, fostering engaging and dynamic discussions. Past selections have encompassed a wide range of titles, from “Same Sun Here” by Silas House to “My Life” by Isadora Duncan and “Tom Lake” by Ann Patchett. Discussions unfold primarily on Facebook, but occasional Zoom meetings and in-person gatherings at local parks add to the sense of camaraderie.
Esmee McKee, the group’s founder, remarks on the club’s significance, “I really love that this book club space has also become a safe place for women who are struggling to share their thoughts. It’s been incredible to know that women feel comfortable to talk openly in a safe, shared space.” These book clubs are not just about reading but also about the power of transformation through literature. To join “The Radical Ladies Book Club,” simply reach out on Facebook.
“Bookish Behavior” completes this journey through Owen County’s book clubs. This unique club meets monthly at Elk Creek Winery and includes members Courtney Roberts, Tana Culbertson, Lee McIntosh, Lyndsi McNally, and Patty Greene.
Roberts, the club’s founder, shares, “Starting a book club was something I had wanted to do for a while. I love to read, and I especially love talking about the books that I read. I made a post on Facebook to see if there was any interest, and thankfully there was.”
Bookish Behavior primarily delves into mysteries and psychological thrillers, but the diverse tastes of its members create an environment for thought-provoking discussions. Past reads have ranged from “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides to “Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeny and “The Only One Left” by Riley Sager. This diversity in reading preferences fosters lively conversations. As Lee McIntosh notes, “I guarantee everyone will have a different opinion.” In a time where sharing opinions can be daunting, book clubs offer a safe space for respectful disagreements and a celebration of the uniqueness of every reading experience.
As these book clubs demonstrate, there is no single “right” way to experience a book. The power of literature lies in its ability to bring people together, whether in person or virtually, and to foster a profound sense of community. To enhance your reading journey and connect with like-minded individuals, consider joining one of Owen County’s existing book clubs. If none of them align with your specific interests, take a page from Courtney Roberts’s book and start your own. It’s as simple as posting on Facebook or leaving a sign at the library; you’re sure to find kindred spirits eager to explore the world of books with you.