The weekly Book Discussion Group at the Glen Park Rec Center is gaining popularity since it was started in March 2022. There are now thirteen regulars and no one is turned away.
They currently meet Tuesdays from 1 to 3 pm. (Check the new feature in the Glen Park News sidebar for classes and events at the Rec Center, including the most up-to-date seasonal schedule.)
Recreation Leader Joan Gallagher was the force behind establishing the group. “I’d really like for people to know how wonderful these books are, and how different our group is from other ‘book clubs.’”
Most book groups meet once a month and discuss the book in its entirety. At the Rec Center, the group reads a certain number of pages each week. “We’re not in a hurry to finish a book—we really want to discuss it, take it apart and have everybody have a chance to say something until we finish it,” says Gallagher.
The group members cited the weekly schedule as a compelling feature.
“It provides continuity of the book, a richer, deeper experience, and it provides a more profound and enlightened conversation,” observes one member.
Another adds, “You can get a sense of relationship much quicker, a sense of the people in the group. You get to know them and feel comfortable.”
Recommendations about which book to read are rotated among the members and then the rest of them vote. Different people favor different themes or qualities of books—the writing, the character development and the moral arc of the story. They bring in their own experiences and associations to their choices.
In that vein, one member said, “Fiction is real life, fictionalized. Stories from that author’s experience get folded into a fictional framework, but it’s real life with lots of lessons to be imparted.”
They read about 75 pages a week until they complete the book, which usually takes four to five weeks.
The group has just finished their eighth selection, “The Island of Missing Trees,” by Elif Shafak, a novel set in Cyprus, which features themes of “belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal,” according to the book jacket. One member said they didn’t know anything about Cyprus and it led them to read up on its history.
One of a few people for whom this book group is their first, was hesitant to join because they didn’t want someone to tell them what to read. They’ve since read books that they wouldn’t have otherwise and finds them fascinating and very enjoyable.
Gallagher likes to liven up the sessions with refreshments that reflect foods featured in the books. For the current selection, in a nod to Cyprus, she brought in baklava and figs (Fig Newtons actually).
The members live in Glen Park as well as quite a few from other neighborhoods—Diamond Heights, Miraloma, Noe Valley, Sunnyside and Pine Lake Park.
They get hold of the books from any number of sources, whether physically from the library or the neighborhood bookstore, Bird and Beckett; or electronically, like ebooks and audiobooks.
When the group was asked, what if you don’t like the book? Gallagher immediately declared, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”! “It was our second book, greatly acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize winner. It was supposed to be a difficult book but we thought we’d take the challenge and indeed it was extremely difficult.” One member had noticed that a particular paragraph in the book was four pages long. Nevertheless, most persisted.
The next selection is “Remarkably Bright Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt, in which one of the main characters is an octopus that befriends someone and endeavors to solve a mystery (really).
Perhaps the group will be inspired to learn everything they can about the octopus next.