Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Book Club List (1995 – 2017)

In September 1995, I started a Book Club at my church. I didn’t know I was starting a book club; I thought I’d volunteered to lead a six-week discussion of Sue Bender’s Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish. We met during the Sunday morning education hour at Flossmoor Community Church in Flossmoor, Illinois. Once we finished studying Plain and Simple, several of us wanted more so we decided to meet monthly to read a book with a spiritual twist. We then decided to meet regularly so we chose books to study together on the other Sundays during the school year when our children and youth met. We enjoyed each other’s company and soon found ourselves teaching and supporting one another. Over the years others joined us and we grew and became known as the Discovery Forum.

The group almost didn’t begin because my mother died four days before the first meeting so I couldn't attend. When I returned the following week, everyone nurtured me in my grief. It seemed appropriate that we started that week as I had begun creating the lists that have become my annual book lists as annotated suggestions for my mother and her friends to use to find books for Mom to read when she underwent chemotherapy treatments. 

Last month a member of our church’s governing board asked if we might be able to share a list of the books that our group had read in the last year or two on the church website to help people looking for summer reading. Because I love making lists, I had a master file dating back to 1995 with titles and the themes that guided us in choosing them, so the church posted it here.

When selecting our titles Frederick Buechner’s words often guided us. “A religious book may not have any religion as such in it at all, but to read it is in some measure to experience firsthand what a religion book can only tell about. A religion book is a canvas. A religious book is a transparency. With a religious book it is less what we see in it than what we see through it that matters. John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany would be an example. Huckleberry Finn would be another. [1]
Our favorite novels over the years include The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos, Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama and Wonder by R. J. Palacio. In nonfiction, our group loved Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup and everything by Barbara Brown Taylor. Our four-week, One-Book-One-Church discussion of Debby Irving’s Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race in February had over fifty participants with more reading the book on their own. Our small group break-out sessions helped us learn about ourselves and those who grew up with different experiences.

If you’d like to start a group like ours, we hope this list will provide assistance. If you want to join our discussions, we meet on Sundays at 11 a.m. and are on hiatus until late October. Check the church website to see when we’re meeting and what we’re reading.

[1] Beyond Words by Frederick Buechner


  1. This is great, Trina, thank you!

    1. We've enjoyed it so much, it seemed like a good idea to share it. Enjoy!

  2. Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog.

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