Good books bring people together.
That is the drive behind a new book discussion group that recently started at the Pleasantville branch of the Atlantic County Library System. Called "Page Turners," the group meets monthly for camaraderie and the enjoyment of shared reading.
"Sharing a great book with someone is always a wonderful thing," said librarian Pam Saunders, who is the branch manager in Pleasantville. "We're hoping it will strike a chord in the community and become another reason to visit the local library."
The group began about three months ago and has a core group of about five women so far.
Saunders said the idea to start the reading group came from Senior Library Assistant Paula Stanton, who now runs the monthly discussions.
"She was very enthusiastic about the idea and knew there was an interest among our regular library visitors. I belong to different book clubs myself, and I thought it was a good idea," Saunders said.
Saunders said she hopes to attract a wide circle of readers, both women and men, who are interested in expanding what they choose to read.
"We are encouraging people to come and sit in on the discussions," Saunders said. "Even if you haven't read the month's pick,, you can get an insight to what's it about. Who knows, you might decide to read something you wouldn't normally select."
October is "National Reading Group Month," an initiative by the Women's National Book Association to promote literacy and a love or reading. According to its website, "National Reading Group Month" augments the WNBA's mission as a conduit for transmitting culture and advancing civic engagement.
The women who met for the Oct. 2 "Page Turners" discussion were excited to be able to share their reading comments with each other.
Sandra Santa Maria is a book club first-timer. Although an avid reader, she never had the time to attend such gatherings. But now that she is recently retired, she enjoys socializing with like-minded book enthusiasts.
"The best part of a book group is reading books I normally wouldn't think to read. It really opens me up to different authors and selections," said Santa Maria, who lives in the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township.
She said she drives to Pleasantville because the reading group is offered in the daytime, and that is convenient to her.
Pleasantville resident Cassandra Taliaferro is a big fan of the new reading group and tries to make the discussions each month.
"I have a passion for books," she said. "This is really enjoyable to come and read different books and be able to talk about them."
Even though she only read about half-way through this month's selection, Taliaferro said she was determined to finish the novel after hearing what the others in the group had to say about it.
This month's book selection, which the group met to discuss Oct. 2, was the historical fiction, "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," by Jamie Ford.
Sandra Jones lives in Somers Point but works at the library, so she has been attending the book discussions.
"I really enjoy it," she said. "I like to hear other people's impressions of a book."
Jones was particularly impressed with this month's selection because it dealt with reacting to racism.
"I really related to this book,' Jones said. "I grew up in a New York City neighborhood and felt what it was like to be the object of racist comments. I thought the author portrayed the characters well."
The "Page Turners" group meets from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month in the library's Activity Room, on the first floor past the main desk. The reading group is free and anyone may attend. Registration isn't mandatory, but the library appreciates knowing how many people will show up.
Next month's discussion, to be held Nov. 6, will be about the book, "Gone Girl," a contemporary thriller novel by Gillian Flynn. All are welcome to join the discussion, and light refreshments will be offered.
The library is located at 33 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. For more information, call 609-641-1778.
Contact Lucia C. Drake: