Our Tucson Book Discussion Group is nearly 20 years old. However our roots go back much further to St. Louis, whence we moved in 1990.
In St. Louis we participated in a well-established group which dated way back to the 1970’s, when they formed a group to discuss the selections from the University of Chicago Great Books Program. Eventually, they completed the series, and decided to continue, selecting their own choice of modern significant books. The pace was torrid, 2 books a month, with summers off.
By and large, the 2 discussion leaders selected the books. The discussion was firmly kept on track, untouched angles broached, and meanderings from the topic cut short.
When we moved to Tucson, we missed the discussions, and could find no comparable group, so decided to start our own. Our approach was different, 1 book/month (we take 2 months off in the summer, and try to schedule a long book as the first one for the new season). Meeting places originally rotated between the member’s houses. However, we now meet at only one house, whose member has a permanent neurological disability. Membership has changed through the years, but has always been diverse – currently a biophysicist, an administrative secretary, four doctors, a physical therapist, a biologist, a librarian, and an accountant. Each participant selects his or her own book to discuss. Our diverse backgrounds make for a wide range of selections. Books include both fact and fiction, from classic to modern – last year’s included “Frankenstein”, “Hidden Figures” (black women mathematicians in NASA), “Lazy B” (Sandra Day O’Conner’s autobiography), and “Gilead”. Our discussions are lively!
During the first few years we formally acted as discussion leaders, as in St. Louis. Later, we have backed off, each member leading the discussion of their own book. We still keep alert though. When members go off on a tangent to air their pet peeves, we more or less subtly bring the discussion back to the book. After all, that’s why we’re here.