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The flex plan: clubs for those who don't have time for clubs.

RENA SIMMONS IS CONSTANTLY IN motion. As the single mother of two with a hectic job at an accounting firm in Baltimore, Maryland, she has to be; and there's little time in her schedule to unwind with books and discuss them with friends.

"Reading is my great passion" Simmons confesses. "Books are all over my house, but I rarely get a chance to read them.

"I've been thinking about joining a book club lately;' she adds. "I'd like to be in the band with other booklovers, but I'm not sure if I can host meetings at home, read the books and attend all of the monthly gatherings"

Booklovers like Simmons who have valid concerns about joining a traditional book club might be interested in alternative ways to partake in a collective reading experience: Simmons says she would consider a club that meets at a bookstore and offered more flexibility.

Here are a couple of the choices for readers like her:

Library and Bookstore Clubs

With meeting dates and times spanning several days of the week and a variety of discussion topics, many library-based book groups offer choices for booklovers with demanding schedules.

The African American Book Club of Boynton Beach, Florida, meets at the Boynton Beach Library in Boynton Beach, Florida. The club is closely associated with Pyramid Books, which assists with book purchases and the distribution of promotional material.

"This book club is establishing itself as an important community institution that gives different personalities an opportunity to meet and discuss a wide range of subjects," says Brother Akbar Watson, proprietor of Pyramid Books.

Its membership includes African American women with a sprinkling of men and white members, blue-collar workers, professionals and retirees. All book selections are chosen a year in advance to allow time for members to complete each selection.

The Adult Book Club of Brownstone Books in Brooklyn, New York, gathers monthly to discuss fiction and nonfiction from various cultures. With no membership requirements and meetings that are free and open to the public, the club encourages members to attend when they can without fear of retribution.

When the You Go Girl Book Club of Illinois started nearly 12 years ago, it initially met at the home of the group's founder, Jean Weathers, before rotating its quarterly meetings among members' homes. "The membership kept growing, so we thought we needed to be in a bigger place, like a hall, or a library room or a bookstore;' says Weathers. The women turned to Afri-Ware, Inc., in Oak Park, Illinois, where they have been holding their meetings for nearly nine years.

"The decor is perfect, we're surrounded by books" Weathers says. "When people walk by the bookstore, they want to know what's going on, and this opens our group up to new membership.

Afri-Ware, owned by Nzingha Nommo, provides meeting space, a table for refreshments, chairs, assistance with organizing author signings and discounts on book purchases.

"We love having our meetings at a bookstore;' says Weathers. "It's more convenient to have one regular meeting place to go to. It gives us a chance to browse and see what new books are on the shelves, and we're giving back to the small, black bookstore owner. It's a win-win situation for all of us:' (For other clubs affiliated with bookstores, see "Reading Clubs Don't Always Go by the Book" BIBR, January-February 2002.)

For more information about these clubs or bookstores:

African American Book Club of Boynton Beach, Florida, Pyramid Books, Boynton Beach, FL, 544-2 Gateway Blvd.; phone: 561-731-4422; e-mail: pyramidbks@aol.com; Web site: www.pyramidbooks.net.

Brownstone Books, 409 Lewis Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11233; phone: 718-953-7328; e-mail: info@brownstonebooks.com; Web site: www.brownstonebooks.com.

You Go Girl Book Club of Illinois; e-mail: wea1020@aol.com; or Afri-Ware, Inc., 948 Lake St, Oak Park, IL, 60301; phone: 708-524-8398; e-mail: Afriware@aol.com; Web site: www.afriware.net.

Virtual Reading Groups

Another alternative is a Web site-based "book club" that allows discussions with readers anywhere. According to Troy Johnson of the African American Literature Book Club (AALBC; http://aalbc.com/), which includes a virtual discussion group that has been thriving online since 1997, "online reading groups work for all the obvious reasons. Geography is not an issue."

Readers are free to participate in AALBC discussions when they want, and discussions are archived.

"The discussion continues throughout the entire month, so time is no longer an issue;' says Johnson.

Other sites with book club discussion forums include AOL Black Voices http://blackvoices.aol.com and Sybil's Book Club on BlackAmericaWeb, http://blackamericaweb.com. (For more information about online club resources, see BOOKBYTES, "E-Clubs," BIBR, November-December 2005.)

Pat Houser is a contributing editor for BIBR. If you would like to have your book club mentioned, e-mail her at pathouser@aol.com, or log on to www.bibookreview.com and tell us about your club.

For more tips, log on to www.bibookreview.com.
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Title Annotation:books & clubs
Author:Houser, Pat
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Directory
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:819
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