Friends share dinner, ideas


An interview with Thea Jones, founding member of Renaissance book club.

When did your group get started? A group of us decided to do this about 1980. ... We were working together as members of the Friends of the Howard County Library, and ... we thought that it would be a great idea to have a book club with men and women in it so that there would be cross-gender discussion, if I can say it that way. And we convinced our husbands that it would be a great idea.

What book are members reading this month? When the Emperor was Divine, and the author is Julie Otsuka.

How do you choose your books? Every month, a different couple hosts the book discussion, and we also have dinner. ... When it's your turn to host the book club, you get to select the reading for that month, so we have quite an eclectic list of readings that we've done.

Eclectic in what way? Because of the wonderful backgrounds of the members of the book club. ... We just read things from many different fields and many different areas of interest. ... We have a school counselor, a psychiatrist, a doctor, someone who has specialized in working with the deaf, the owner of a company that produces wax-museum figures, an educator, an artist, two community activists, and so there's such a range of interests in this group.

Is there a book that led to an especially interesting discussion? We often refer back to books that we have read when we meet. I think socially and politically we always keep coming back to Tom Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree. The book is about globalization and the effect on community. All of us are interested in current issues and how the global issues are affecting us right here in Columbia and how we can have an impact on them.

What has the group read recently that most members liked? We liked Walter Cronkite's book [A Reporter's Life] because we all have lived through the events in the book, and it was almost like reading your personal social history in America. ... And we all felt it was our book. That probably dates us. The people in the book club - their ages range from late 40s to 70s. ... We have fun. We read a book about India, and the couple that hosted that [evening] had an Indian dinner. So we have a great time eating and talking and sharing ideas.

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