In 2008, oncology nurse Dale Israel was sitting at her breakfast table reading the Sunday book section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“It would feature a book club each week and they always sounded like so much fun,” said Israel, RN, MSN, disparities outreach coordinator at the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute. “But my time for reading is limited and I don’t feel the need to discuss a particular book in depth like most book clubs do.”
Israel, who likes to read historical and contemporary fiction, didn’t want to join a traditional book club. However, she did want to know what books others were reading so she could get recommendations for her own reading list. With that in mind, she decided to host a book party.
“I thought I’d have some people over who like to read,” Israel said. “I asked them to RSVP with their favorite books and brief comments about them. Then I would compile a master list of good reads to hand out at the party.”
As her idea grew, Israel thought it would be interesting to include an appearance by an author. She discovered that Frank Reiss of A Cappella Books in Atlanta could put her in touch with local writers.
“When I called Jackie Lee Miles, she was so gracious,” Israel said.
The Alpharetta author’s book, “Roseflower Creek,” depicts child abuse from the point of view of a 10-year-old victim. After Miles spoke, Israel passed the hat and asked her guests to contribute to Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, an organization that fights child abuse.
“Everyone left so excited from the first event and said that I had to do it again. Books make a great icebreaker among strangers, I’ve discovered,” Israel said.
Israel has since hosted seven events, which she calls A “Novel” Exchange book event and benefit. She keeps a list of readers and former guests and sends out email invitations before each event. Attendees get time to chat with other readers over wine and cheese, meet and listen to an author, and exchange books at the book swap table. She charges $25 in advance and $30 at the door.
“I don’t think that $25 is too much, considering that people get to meet an author, go home with a new book or two and a list of good recommendations from everyone,” Israel said. “I pay for the event myself, and everything we raise goes to the selected charity. We try to match the charity to the author’s book.”
When Brad Cohen, author of “Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had,” spoke, the event raised money for Camp Twitch and Shout, a summer camp for children with Tourette Syndrome.
Northside Hospital helped Israel host an event that featured Siddhartha Mukerjee, who wrote “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.” The proceeds benefitted Northside Hospital’s Cancer Care Program.
The events have grown larger as attendees have invited other book lovers.
“Now that the database is growing, one of the biggest challenges is finding free meeting space,” Israel said. Sometimes the charities help her locate a spot.
Although juggling a full-time job and planning the events is challenging, Israel has no intention of stopping the book fundraisers that she hosts once or twice year.
“I do these events because they are fun. It’s interesting talking to the authors and I’ve met a lot of nice people that I would never have met otherwise. Readers are nice people,” she said.
Israel says the fundraising events are rewarding and are “a unique way to do a good deed and meet people who read.” To date, she has helped raise about $13,000.
“I have been so blessed. I know I can’t save the world, but what little bit I can do can help somebody,” Israel said. “Looking around, it’s unrealistic to think that you can help everyone, but you can always do some good. I want to leave the Earth knowing that I’ve done my part.”
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