There are many ways to mark the passage of time: children growing older, graduations, another gray hair. For one group of Buckhead women, those life changes have been marked by the books they have read.
For 42 years, members of the informally dubbed Buckhead Book Club have formed lasting friendships while reading, discussing and dissecting books from almost every genre. In March, the group hosted a reunion that drew 30 present and past members, some of whom still live in town and others who have moved out of state. Three of the club’s original members were hand, including founder Cheryl Mullins.
“In 1971, all of us were home with young children and feeling hemmed in,” said Mullins, now upper level principal at the Schenck School in Buckhead. “It was like our brains were in neutral. So I called some of my favorite people and said, ‘Let’s get together and read.’ In the process, we grew up together.”
There was no formal requirement for joining; members just invited other friends to join. The gathering grew into a regular event for the second Tuesday of each month at a member’s house. The group divided into pairs, one of whom hosted while the other led the book review. Sometimes there was a theme; other times the book was selected by group vote. The only guideline was books had to be in paperback so everyone could afford them. In its earliest days, the club hosted up-and-coming authors such as Anne Rivers Siddons, Stuart Woods and Pat Conroy. Since most members had children in nursery school, the meetings were conducted over coffee.
“It was like we all turned into pumpkins when it was time to rush off and get the kids,” said Ann Wood, a longtime member and teacher at Christ the King school in Buckhead. “Then it became lunch; now we do tea. But it’s always been about the book. There’s not a lot of gossip.”
Out of 30 women on the informal membership roll, there are now about 14 core participants, ranging in age from 60 through 70.
“It’s gotten harder for people to attend with so many working,” said Anne Boyd. “But people were wildly enthusiastic about having a reunion. It was a great way to celebrate a group that has meant so much to all of us.”
Those who can make the meetings show up eager to share their views on the readings.
“Lately, we’ve been reading current authors, but there was a time when all we read were biographies,” said Wood. “Some books have even been read twice. Some of them have been particularly haunting — ‘The House of Mirth’ was one. We even went together to the see the movie when it came out.”
The group did the same after reading “The Help.” They’ve also attended author lectures and readings and extended their own love of reading to children: At the meeting to discuss the first “Harry Potter” book, members brought some of their favorite children’s books and donated them to Emmaus House, a community center in Peoplestown. And they still welcome authors willing to spend an afternoon with the club.
Along with reading interesting books and having lively discussions, Boyd said the best part of the club is developing friendships with the other members.
“In some cases, I only knew them through the book club, but I knew them through the books,” she said. “And it was great to read books you might not have picked on your own.”
One contemporary novel the club does not have on its radar is the controversial “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“I think that’s a book I might read when I go to the beach,” said Boyd with a laugh.
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