Tales From a Reading Group


Ted Olinger, KP News

John Jewel’s 2002 sculpture in front of the Key Center Library celebrates the importance and joy of reading. Photo: Ted Olinger, KP News

The Friends of the Key Center Library Book Discussion Group is looking for a few good readers.

“It was started in 1992 by the then librarian, Dory Meyers; she was quite a famous character here,” group member Mary Watson said. “Brenda and Dick Bates were the two others who helped start it. And it’s been going ever since then, so this is its 25th year.”

Watson, 91, of Rocky Creek, is one of only two remaining original members.

“We’ve gone down from 20—that’s the largest number we ever had—now usually we figure about 10 for meetings,” she said. “We’d kind of like to bolster the group up a bit.”

The group, sponsored by the Friends of the Key Center Library, meets once a month on the fourth Thursday at 11 a.m. In June, there is a selection meeting where the group picks 10 books to read in the year to come.

“We have no particular theme,” Watson said. “We hope that they will have read it before they recommend it, but it doesn’t always happen that way.”

Recent titles included “Animal Dreams” by Barbara Kingsolver, “Mister Pip” by Lloyd Jones, and the 2017 Pierce County Reads selection, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War” by Mary Roach.

“One summer we took three months to read the newest translation of ‘War and Peace,’ and we just loved that,” Watson said. “That was one of the things that solidified the group for a long time.”

Not all the choices are popular, Watson said.

“One person in our group wanted to do Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse.’ Two of us in the group had tried to read this book twice and we both said to her ‘No, no,’ but the group said, ‘If she wants it, we’re going to do it.’ So, we gritted our teeth and we read it and I think that was probably the best discussion we’ve ever had in the group. It was very rewarding.”

Rosina Vertz, the Key Center-Pierce County library branch supervisor, supports this and other local reading groups as much as possible.

“The library has this huge collection of book club kits,” she said. “There are 15 copies of the title that you choose and there are discussion questions and book reviews in the kit, and that is very helpful for people who maybe have never been in a book discussion group.”

Vertz said one of the most interesting book discussions she remembered was about “The Lady in Gold” by Anne-Marie O'Connor. The book tells the story of Gustav Klimt's painting, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer,” commissioned by the sitter’s husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker in Vienna before World War II. The painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and later claimed by the Austrian government after the war. It was only returned to the family heirs in 2006 after an eight-year legal battle.

“I grew up with the history of the persecution of the Jews across Europe,” said Vertz, a native of West Germany. “I always thought that I knew everything about it, because our teachers did not hide it and I was a history major in college. But I think what I never quite perceived is how it actually worked in real life. That book just told the story of that family and how they did different things to escape—or not—or thinking because they were rich they would be protected, and none of them were. Some of them escaped and some didn’t. That was an important insight for me.”

“When we started this 20 years ago, it was a big thrill, it was an important day of the month,” Watson said. “Now there are many book clubs, but from what I hear they are quite often just social occasions; there isn’t the passion for reading that I think we had when we started this one.

“In our group, you have many different tastes and levels of study, but you have this deep respect and liking for books and words, so it’s sort of this small community that becomes very much a part of your life.”

The group will discuss local KP author Richard A.M. Dixon’s new book, “Inuit,” with the author at this month’s meeting, Aug. 24 at 11 a.m. “Everyone is welcome,” said Vertz.