Book Chat: Old Club Invigorates New Library

Longtime Westporter Nina Sankovitch is an environmental lawyer. She is also an author (her new book, “American Rebels: How the Hancock, Adams, and Quincy Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution” comes out in March).

For the last 5 years too, Nina has moderated Westport Library Book Chat discussions. She loves her volunteer job — and wants “06880” readers to know all about it. Nina writes:

There is so much in the new Westport Library. Author talks and musical productions; the gift shop with its array of eclectic book-inspired offerings; the new café, a great place to grab a coffee and meet a friend.

Budding fashionistas are welcome to use the sewing room; would-be podcasters can hone their skills in the audio production studio; inventors create in the Makers Space, and the huge screen in the Great Hall means that events like the impeachment hearings and election night can be shared experiences, not suffered through alone at home.

But what brings me to the library on the first Tuesday of every month, at 10 a.m. sharp, is the Book Chat.

Book Chatters chat about books.

It’s not new. We have been meeting for 10 years now, 12 times a year, and our purpose has not changed. We talk about the very best the Westport Library has to offer: books.

Books of all kinds, every genre, published in every era, written by writers from around the world. We don’t meet to talk about a specific book; we to talk about any books we’ve read lately. We talk about books we’ve loved,  books we hated, books we want others to read and know about.

I’ve been attending Book Chat since its inception in the summer of 2009 (when it was known as “Stop and Swap”). Some of us original book chatters are still around, and we welcome all newcomers.

There is no assigned reading for Book Chat, no requirement to participate – but although people show up claiming they just want to listen, after 15 minutes the newcomer’s hand comes up and an opinion is offered.

Nina Sankovitch, in a favorite pose. (Photo by Douglas Healey/New York Times)

People who read books tend to want to talk about them. We share our thoughts on the quality of the writing, or how satisfying (or not) the ending was. We also talk about what the book meant to us, and why we think someone else might love (or hate) it as much as we did.

Book Chat is a drop-in group. Some members attend every single month; others come when they can.

The range of reading interests represented is vast. We have people who love memoirs, and others who favor history but will read poetry. We have mystery and romance lovers, and those who read only literary fiction. We have those who read religious tomes and others who read religious theory (there is a difference).

We have those who prefer classics and those who want to read anything new. What is great about the variety of tastes is that I hear about books I might never have even considered reading.

Thirty to 40 books are discussed at each meeting/ I always come away with new titles to add to my list. This month they include Noon Wine, Ordinary Grace. Outline and Cautionary Tales for Children.

In my 10 years of Book Chat participation, I have seen that our group mirrors the community at large. We may not always agree on books – or politics, social issues, or even the best room in which to meet. But we are always respectful of each other, always kind and generous. We let everyone talk, and we listen. Our shared love of books not only brings us together, but is celebrated. Our common humanity is recognized.

I will always remember the story told by one of our cherished members, of how he wooed his girlfriend in college by reading aloud to her the stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Of course she married this treasure of a man – and they went on to share years of reading aloud to each other.

But only he attended our Book Chat meetings. He was the half of the couple who wished to talk about books. So he came, we talked, and we all swooned when he told the story of his college romance.

When we left at the end of the hour we felt connected, invigorated and more positive about the world – for having shared with each other the books we love.

Every time I attend Book Chat I come away with that great feeling of both belonging and participating.Book Chat is a vestige of the old library taking root in the new. I am grateful for being part of it all.

3 responses to “Book Chat: Old Club Invigorates New Library

  1. Beautifully put, Nina! I go back to the time Marta Campbell was staffing the group, followed by Susan Madeo and now Christine Lorusso. But Nina is the anchor that has held it together all these years. She has even brought candy corn for Halloween. After a long year of setting up tables and moving chairs around at the Suzuki School of Music, it is glorious to be back at our newly transformed library.

  2. Dan, do you have Nina’s email? I would love to invite her to an Introductory Luncheon at Mercy Learning Center, a literacy center for women in Bridgeport, as I believe she would really appreciate what is going on there! Or you can give her my email: Thanks, Tammy