Monday, February 10, 2014


I first joined a book discussion group when I was in Los Angeles in 1961.  We were going to the Westwood Unitarian Fellowship and met Peter Gary, a Hungarian composer and Holocaust survivor.  He led a monthly book discussion group and we read books that were stimulating – classics, provocative novels, and non-fiction that enlightened us. In 1968 Nedra and I moved to Stony Brook, New York  and joined the Stony Brook Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship.  They had a book discussion group led by Ernie Kamperman, a dentist.  It used a similar format of books recommended by participants and lively discussions.  In both cases these were held in a host’s home (either Gary’s or Kamperman’s).  When Kamperman got ill and died in 1975, I kept the book discussion going for the next 30 years and they were rotated among a half dozen homes of participants. When we moved to Bloomington, Indiana in November 2009 and joined the UU Church of Bloomington, there was no book discussion group.  I volunteered to start it and so far we meet in our home which has a spacious living room that can hold 12 people comfortably. We pick books that are prize winners or nominees for Nobels, Pulitzers, National Book Awards or Booker Prizes.  We occasionally read a classic (like Tocqueville’s Democracy in America or Lessing’s Nathan the Wise).  The person who recommends the book starts the discussion by telling us why that book was chosen. The conversation for an hour is lively and we then have coffee and cake and discuss what we should read next, alternating a work of fiction and a work of non-fiction.  The result of some 50 years of reading at least a book each month outside my fields of genetics or history of science has been enriching.  I learn from others and see how differently we interpret the works we read. It is also nice to have a sustained discussion on ideas that matter in a world that has abandoned soirees and replaced them with full time pundits on television. 

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