In early December of 2019 I had my first ever experience of attending a book club meeting. I had been invited by a friend, Sallie Sangster, to speak to the club she belongs to. It was a lunchtime affair, so Jane went with me to make sure I used the right fork, put my napkin in my lap, and didn’t sigh a long, “Ahhh,” after taking a drink of iced tea. In childhood I learned from my Granddaddy Hill how to accentuate a good sip. I still find that it somehow makes the tea a little sweeter.
My food preferences tilt heavily toward basic things whose origins are obvious, southern staples like butterbeans, creamed potatoes, and fried chicken for example. But I’ll have to admit those seven ladies performed salad magic beyond what I had believed to be possible. The meal was as delicious as the company and was capped off with a unique chocolate pie so good that Jane asked for the recipe.
Sallie had told me I could talk about anything, but Jane had told me I couldn’t. She knows I sometimes need a filter. I had no idea what I should say to a book club, as I don’t read many books and don’t remember much of what I have read. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Sadie Collins, told me in the late 1960s that I had reached my limit of reports on The Old Man and The Sea. Admittedly, I chose the book for its brevity, but I still believe it to be worthy of more than two essays.
The lovely center piece on the dinner table was surrounded by books which the club had recently read. Call of the Wild by Jack London was not among them, but several of the ladies readily agreed it was a worthwhile read. I knew at some point one of the club members was likely to ask me what good book I had read lately, so I decided to be proactive.
“I’ve just finished reading the book of Ephesians,” I said. Without hesitation our hostess, Kay Peebles, graciously responded that would certainly count. Although it may not be a book in the typical sense, I figured it almost had to be considered an acceptable answer. No one wants to be remembered as the person who said Ephesians isn’t a real book.
My use of Ephesians as a book reference reminded me of the children’s messages that Matt Stephens, a former pastor at Vienna First Baptist, used to give. Matt would invite the young children to join him at the front of our sanctuary. Before he shared a mini sermon, he would casually visit with the children and ask them what they had talked about in Sunday School. The most consistent response became, “Jesus,” which Matt said was always a good answer. Then he would dig a little deeper and usually find out more about their lesson.
That’s similar perhaps to what the book club does. They casually visit while digging a little deeper into what they’ve read. And somehow between the coffee and the conversation a bond is formed that makes their common effort of learning a time of joy.
It surprised me how much frivolity there was at the book club meeting. It may not be true of all clubs and probably depends a lot on what topic is being discussed. Chocolate pie always puts me in a good mood so maybe that had an effect. And my impression is those ladies don’t just drift aimlessly across a sea of literature. The books they discuss are like hoisting sails on a ship of friendship.
It was such a good experience that I’m inviting any men who are interested to join me at a book club meeting in Vienna. We’ll be in George Chapel at First Baptist on Sundays at 10 am. We’re presently reading the book of Numbers to be followed by the book of Deuteronomy. If Vienna is not a convenient location, there are countless other book clubs which welcome new members.
I didn’t think I should end my short talk at Sallie’s club meeting without sharing something of a literary nature. Thankfully I recalled an original poem titled “The Lonely Buzzard.” That recitation is how I concluded my talk, so maybe the last few lines will work for ending this column.
Lonely buzzard with a roadkill diet, no matter how it smells he’s always glad to try it. Lonely buzzard with a quirky appetite, we shouldn’t criticize unless we’ve had a bite.
If you’re not in a book club that meets on Sunday mornings, I hope you’ll join one soon. Topics vary, but the tie that binds us together never changes. We always read from The Good Book.