25th Trillium Award

Get to Know Literary Ontario: Port Hope Public Library?s Tea and Books Book Club

 
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Tea and Books Club

The Port Hope Public Library is home to Tea and Books, a very different kind of book club where a group of avid readers come together to discuss books and drink tea, without the pressure of having to read the books. Started in 2002, this group has been fostering a love of reading in the Port Hope community for over ten years. Today, Port Hope Public Library?s Chief Librarian and CEO, Barbara Stephenson, tells Open Book about what makes this particular book club so unique, how the book club got started, how it has evolved since it began and the book that has really stood out for the group.

Open Book:

Tell us about how and when your book club got started.

Barbara Stephenson:

Tea and Books was introduced at Port Hope Public Library in 2002. It was based on a long-standing programming model from Etobicoke Public Libraries which I had conducted and participated in for a number of years. The Port Hope community has a strong love of reading and of books and this programming format has worked very well in fostering this interest in reading.

OB:

How has your book club evolved over the years?

BS:

The participants have remained fairly consistent over the years but with new members welcomed on a regular basis. Long-standing members have encouraged friends, neighbours and family to either sit in or become regular members. The book presentations have become more informal with lively discussions about other favourite and new books. I have recently included discussions about new DVDs of interest to the group, a new feature enjoyed by everyone.

OB:

Describe an average meeting for us.

BS:

Tea and Books is an informal chat led by me about new and recommended books and authors. The program is held once a month on the third Thursday of the month at 2:00 p.m. for afternoon tea and cookies. At the insistence of the group, the tea is served in fine china cups. We gather in the Program Room around a large table so that people do not have to balance their teacups. I produce a reading list of about six to eight titles with a brief annotation. I present each title to the group, providing some background information about the author, and any insights and experiences I had from reading the book. There is often input from the group, especially if they are familiar with the book or author. The presented books are then available for anyone interested in checking one of them out of the library.

OB:

How do you decide which books to read?

BS:

From years of preparing for Tea and Books I have developed a fairly eclectic range of reading. I read mostly fiction but I do try to include non-fiction books as well. I usually select books from the new book shelves that look appealing and of interest to the group. Mysteries are always popular. It is always fun to discover a new author, especially a first novel, and share this with the group. I am always open to suggestions and the group over the years has recommended a number of books for me to read and discuss with the group.

OB:

What would you say is one of your book club's unique characteristics?

BS:

Tea and Books is very different from a standard book club. People who are interested do not have to join nor do they have to read any of the books. It is a wonderful venue to meet with people who love to read and talk about books.

OB:

What was the last book your group read that really stood out for you?

BS:

My Tea and Books starred review for 2013 is M.L. Stedman?s The Light Between Oceans, a debut novel published by Scribner in 2012. I came across this book on the library?s new book shelves by accident and this beautifully written, lyrical and heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful story is now on my list of all-time favourites. It is also an international bestseller and an Amazon.ca Editors? Pick: Best Books of 2012.

OB:

What advice do you have for someone hoping to start up a book club?

BS:

My best advice is to check out your local public library. Your library, like Port Hope, may already have a book club for you to join. Many libraries also assist book clubs, helping with book lists, recommended titles and finding multiple copies of book club titles for members to borrow from the library.



Would you like to see your book club profiled on Open Book: Ontario? Send your suggestions to Erin at [email protected]

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