The Crack Spine Book Club
Naples, Florida

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A PART TIME ENGLISH professor ventured outside the classroom to find a group of friends to share her passion for literature—and The Crack Spine Book Club was born. The best news? No one gets graded.

What a great name! How did you come up with it?

We're a group of ladies in the 60-75 age range. The name is symbolic of an aging, informed reader. It reinforces the idea that to stay sharp and informed—when it comes to social, cultural, historical events—a person has to "crack the spine." It's how we keep the mind active and engaged!

How did you get started.
Our founder, Maryanne, works part time as an English professor: reading and literature are her passion. In 2012 she wanted to pull together a group of interested and enthusiastic readers— friends who would engage in a social, interactive evening and feel secure in expressing their opinions.

How many members?
So far, there are 18 of us. We often have a "bring a friend" night at our meetings. We're all transplanted Floridians, so it's important to have new friends as part of our extended "family."

Well, tell us what you've read.
Here's a list of recent books:

The Good American
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
The Language of Flowers
Defending Jacob
Ethan Frome
The Yellow Birds
Miss Dreamsville and the Collier
    County Literary Society
The Aviator's Wife
The Storyteller
Orphan Train

Great list. Any favorites?
Here are member comments for some of our favorite books:

Defending Jacob and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: "I like thinking about something from a medical or psychological viewpoint."

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Literary Society: "It took place in 1963, so I was part of that generation."... "It showed the narrow viewpoints towards women, blacks and gays at that time not just in the South but all over the country."

Ethan Frome, a classic: "A perfect novel for January because it emphasized the the bitter cold and snow in a small Massachusetts town and the tragic decisions of the characters."

The Storyteller: "I was stunned by the horrors endured by the Jewish people during WWII, which were made more real by the contrasting story of the vampire."

The Yellow Birds: "Beautiful poetic language to describe the horrible war in Iraq."..."I really learned something about a book I would not have chosen on my own."

How about disappointments?
The Aviator's Wife was disappointing because, despite the fact that Anne Morrow Lindberg finally achieved freedom and liberation from her overpowering husband, she appears as a passive woman caught up in the status and image of money and power. We, as readers, were both sympathetic but also angry that her "self assertion" did not appear sooner in the novel.

Also, members were "frustrated" with Inferno because of the constant changing of scenes and significant information that leads to the theme of the book. Comments: "Definitely a movie script, but difficult as a book to read."

Which books have led to great discussions?
Every book has led to a great discussion despite weaknesses in its structure or language. The key to success is providing guiding questions for each book at least 10 days in advance of the discussion meeting and encouraging note-taking of special ideas or themes.

What does "Make the Connection" mean?
One of the main reasons why our club discussions are successful is because we have a "Make the Connection" portion of the book discussion: our leader takes a theme or important idea from the book and asks everyone to "make the connection" to their own lives. For example, from Orphan Train, our instructions were as follows: "Bring something that represents a story from your past, like Molly with her charm necklace and copy of Jane Eyre, and Vivian with her trunk possessions. Or share with us something you had to leave behind. Be willing to share that story!" (See photos.)

Any other special activities?
It's only our first year, but so far we've celebrated the holidays and a club milestone—a Christmas luncheon and our First Anniversary party. In September we held a "Meet and Greet" at a restaurant. Finally we hold Book Trivia Contests and award prizes.

What about club rules?
1) Read the book!
2) Keep a journal.
3) Take notes!
4) Read reviews from internet.
5) Do some background research on any  historical/political/social issues from the book (example: Watch PBS special about the Orphan Train Movement).

Finally, what would you like our readers to know about The Crack Spine Book Club?
The club represents a cohesive, bright, energetic, yet diverse group of members! Their diversity of backgrounds, professions, and viewpoints, as well as love of good discussion, food and wine clearly make The Crack Spine Book Club UNIQUE!

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