By Shannon Ng
Idyllwild Librarian

Reading is usually a solitary activity, just you and the author having an intimate conversation. But in Idyllwild, that’s not always the case. Though we do have an unusual number of readers in our small community, we also have a long history of groups of people meeting on a regular basis to share their love of reading, literature and the written word. I recently put out the word that the Idyllwild Library would like to support the many book groups in our area by requesting several copies of their next book choice from other branches of the Riverside County Library System and its Inland Library Network partners. We offered to make them available for check-out here at the library. The response was exciting and warmed my librarian’s heart.

I heard from no less than six active clubs here on the Hill. They are as varied in membership as they are in their book choices. Some have been around since 1995 while others started just last year. Each has its own perspective on the value of reading together. Everyone agrees they read books they never would have considered without their book group and the discussions they engendered.

The oldest currently active club was started by Jane Stonehill when she owned a bookstore on upper North Circle. The group doesn’t have a name. It doesn’t need one. They have been meeting since around 1995 and have an active group with a membership of 15 to 20 people. They are careful to choose paperbacks only to keep the cost of purchasing the books affordable. Their next book selection is “Unbroken” by Lauren Hilldebrand, a book recommended to them by members of other groups on the Hill. They are not currently open to new members but frequently share book recommendations and reviews with us at the library.

The Creekstone Book Club began as the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council Book Group in 2009. It was started by Laurie Gillett and Chris Singer of the Creekstone Inn and the Silver Pines Lodge. Their membership and social focus has changed little since they began. Member Arthur Connor shared “The club’s mission has been diversity of reading pleasure as well as a conviviality of attitudes in the company of books and each other.” They meet once a month and visitors are welcome.

Their book-selection process is unique on the Hill. Each member knows a year in advance which month will be theirs to choose the title. There are no restrictions on what a member may choose. Their first read was Garth Stein’s “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” Their meetings include a full meal and wonderful conversation.

Most groups meet once per month although the Ladybug Readers do take the summer off. They choose an author and each member reads one or more of their books over the summer and then they talk about them all together. They have also been known to choose a longer book and save it for summer reading. They have been meeting in members’ homes for more than 10 years.

Their founder, Mary Zimmerman, began the group because she wanted to meet with other women to expand on her own reading choices. It has grown into a large group with members including both full- and part-timers. Two ladies whose primary homes are out of state read every book the group selects even when they aren’t able to attend. This creative crowd has read books in anticipation of seeing the upcoming movie together and reads at least one classic per year.

They also read works by local authors each year. Both Joanne Bischoff and Diane Noble have shared their books with them. Like many of the other book groups in town, book selection is by consensus. Members make suggestions from any and all genres and the most popular suggestion becomes their next read. I’m also proud to share that the library was instrumental in helping them choose a name. Apparently, when they tried to reserve the Community Room, a staff member suggested they needed a name. It just might be that we influenced their name choice because we were celebrating ladybugs for storytime that day.

Two other groups merit mention here. The Spirit Mountain Retreat also supports a book discussion group. Their selections support their vision and their mission. Participants are invited to awaken their inner story and see how it connects with the larger story around them. They often choose a title and will talk about it at several meetings by suggesting a number of pages or chapters to read for each gathering. Their latest book is “An Altar of the Word” by Barbara Brown. Both Margaret Mary Leusch and Mary Morse encourage new readers to join them.

The Idyllwild Contemporary Book Club was begun just under a year ago by Gina Genis. She was looking for a group to share contemporary writing about subjects and issues relevant to today’s readers. Fiction or nonfiction, humor, satire and something worth talking about are all fair game for these readers. They also choose books by local authors. The month’s selection is “Aridtopia: Essays on Art and Culture from Deserts in the Southwest United States” by Tyler Stallings. Stallings will be attending their next meeting.

Lastly, the library also has a book group. The Fireside Book Group is open to anyone interested in talking about the book selected. Visitors are always welcome and the next book is chosen by those in attendance at the last meeting. We have read everything from classics and popular nonfiction to several contemporary authors. Our last book was Joy Sikorski and Michael Silversher’s “Tamar of the Terebinths.” Both authors were available to answer questions and give some background history at the last meeting. Book recommendations are always welcome from anyone who visits the library.

Contact information for each of these groups is available at the library. If you know of another group that would appreciate the library bringing their books to Idyllwild for their members, please let the staff know. We would love to know what you are reading.