A Good Read and Much More
The Many Book Clubs of Greenwich
Photograph by Bob Capazzo
A room without books
is like a body without a soul.
Reading is one of life’s great dividing lines: It’s either as important as breathing or a pleasant pursuit of minor consequence. However, if you’re an inveterate reader — if you cut your teeth devouring Narnia by flashlight, feel bereft without a stack of novels on your nightstand and have been known to peruse cereal boxes in a pinch — this is the town for you. With a population of roughly 60,000, Greenwich supports the busiest public library in the state with two flourishing branches, the Perrot Memorial Library, two independent bookstores, a Borders and more book clubs than you can shake the proverbial stick at.
There is no official list of book clubs in Greenwich, but Jenny Lawton, the proprietor of Just Books Too in Old Greenwich, has a formula for the final count: “Take the number of women in town, take 80 percent of them, and divide by ten. That’s the number of book clubs.”
Book clubs split into three categories — library, bookstore and private — and run the gamut from a casual confab in a coffee shop to a sit-down luncheon with a moderator or hired facilitator. There are singles and couples clubs, kids clubs, faith-based clubs, newcomers clubs and innumerable others that spring up simply because, as Jane Liu, cofounder of the Lia Fail neighborhood group, says, “We all enjoy each other’s company enormously and are avid, avid readers.” Special interest clubs include those focusing on foreign affairs, science fiction and Great Books (all meet at the Greenwich Library), and those associated with the Alliance Française, Amici Del Libro and the German Club of Greenwich that read in the mother tongues. The style may vary but the content is constant. It’s all about the words on the page, and the engrossing experience of diving into another world and then re-emerging to share the journey.
“I’d never run a book club before I bought a bookstore,” says Jenny, who moderates the Just Books Too and Cos Cob Library evening groups and holds quarterly open meetings for anyone interested in starting or maintaining a club. “I’d never even been in a book club, but I was always a reader. If I go talk to a club, I just choose books that are selling well or books that I’ve read and liked, or I talk to them about books they’ve read before,” she explains. “It’s based on their interests and what I know. I just moderate, keep the discussion going, answer questions, but I’m not there to tell anyone what I think.”