Concord-area book clubs draw those eager to explore, share must-reads

  • The Books and Brew book club, hosted by the Concord Public Library, meets at True Brew Barista and Cafe on Wednesday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Robbin Bailey (center) talks about a book she has just started reading during a meeting of Books and Brew book club at True Brew Barista and Cafe on Wednesday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • The Books and Brew book club, hosted by the Concord Public Library, meets at True Brew Barista and Cafe. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • The Books & Brew Book Club, hosted by the Concord Public Library, meets at True Brew Barista and Cafe on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Brian Pierce (center background) talks about what he’s been reading during a meeting of Books and Brew at True Brew Barista on Wednesday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Sunday, November 05, 2017

With two books in hand, Susan Huppi of Penacook got comfy on a high-top chair to enjoy a gooey cinnamon bun as she waited for her fellow book club members to arrive at Concord’s True Brew Barista.

As others took their seats just before 6 p.m. Wednesday, they did so with their favorite beverage; for many, it was a glass of beer, for others a cup of coffee, and for one a glass of red wine.

“I’ve always wanted to join a book club, but everywhere I went the club was a closed circle of people,” said Marynell Noonan of Concord. “Here it’s so nice because it’s more open.”

For Noonan and the handful of Concord area residents in attendance Wednesday, the monthly Books and Brew club at the well-known True Brew cafe in Bicentennial Square is a treat they look forward to and spend time preparing for in advance. The book club, organized by the Concord Public Library, is one of several in the region, however, it’s unique in that there is no assigned reading; rather, participants talk for nearly two hours about the latest books they’ve read, as well as those they’ve just begun – and some like it better that way.

“What attracted me to this book club is the very informal style, the flexibility and the variety,” said Paul Bradshaw of Penacook.

Bradshaw, an engineer, said his preferred reading choices are non-traditional and, therefore, he has the pleasure of exposing fellow club members to books they likely never would have known about otherwise.

“A reoccurring theme of mine is how people mangle the English language,” he said with a laugh.

The social aspect of book clubs coupled with a love of reading is what drew Klaylea Zwiebel to join Books and Brew after she moved to the region from Houston, Texas, one year ago. She was proud to say she hasn’t missed a monthly meeting since. The participants of her last book club would be jealous if they knew what the Concord library had to offer at True Brew, she said, while pointing to the array of food and beverage options at her fingertips.

Books and Brew just celebrated its two-year anniversary; it began after

the library struggled to keep its more traditional book club afloat.

While book clubs with assigned reading can deter some prospective participants, those gathered at True Brew last week agreed that the more traditional approach still has a place in the community. A love of reading typically draws people in, but it’s the exposure to new ideas, traditions and ways of thinking, as well as conversations with neighbors that keep them coming back.

Concord resident Jillisa Solomon loves the Concord library’s innovative approach to book club, but says she remains loyal to the more traditional one that meets the first Monday of the month at Gibson’s Bookstore downtown.

“Gibson’s Book Club has structure, and I’ve really enjoyed that,” Solomon said by phone last week. “The only book clubs that I’ve been in previously have been with friends, and they were much more free-flowing.”

Solomon joined Gibson’s Book Club at the start of the year in hopes of expanding her social circle after her move to Concord. Last winter, Solomon said, she broke both of her ankles in a treadmill accident and was feeling housebound. Joining book club gave her something to look forward to, so she could move beyond feelings of isolation.

“Also, for me, I want to keep my brain active because nobody is getting any younger,” she said. “That’s one thing about the book club is they pick books I wouldn’t have read otherwise and, in doing so, expand my horizons. Books are so magical, too, in that way that they really transport us somewhere else.”

Books and Brew club members agreed, noting they’re always anxious to get new book recommendations.

“It’s exciting to listen to others ideas, especially when they’re totally different from anything you would have thought to explore on your own,” Huppi said. “There are sections of the library I had not explored before, and now I’m finding myself all over.”

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

Gibson’s Book Club meets the first Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at Gibson’s Bookstore on South Main Street.

Books and Brew meets the first Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at True Brew in Bicentennial Square.