LitClub:  MeRG
Douglasville, Georgia

A BIG WELCOME to LitLovers' first all-men's reading group — hopefully, the first of many. In this, their first year of existence, the group has taken on some terrific books, both fiction (yes, Venus—Mars does read fiction) and nonfiction.

What about your name? Sounds kind of high-tech.
Sorry, not really. It stands for "Men's Reading Group." We stayed away from calling it a "book club" because that term seems to have a feminine connotation, which some of us wanted to avoid. [Ahhh, c'mon guys! —Editor.]

How many are in your group...the 5 in the photo?
No, we have more—right now, about 10 members—but not everyone can make every meeting.

Tell us how you got started.
The idea first came about with two of us sharing and discussing books. We decided there might be other guys who would like to participate, too.

Since our church was promoting the idea of “Landing Zones”— places where new members or fringe members might become more involved in the fellowship of the church—it seemed like a perfect fit.

We solicited potential members in October, 2009, and had our first meeting in December. Not all of our members belong to our church—in fact, we want to be open to men outside the church who might like to join us

Where are meetings—and how are they structured?
We meet in a different home each month and typically start with a time for socializing. We serve some light fare—snacks or appetizers, beer, wine and soft drinks—then we settle into our meeting which typically runs from 7:30 pm to 9:30pm.

So what have you read?
The list is varied—with topics centering around governance, war, travel, nature:

Company Aytch - Civil War (Watkins)
Devil in The White City
Earth Is Enough
Freedom At Midnight - Indian independence (Collins and Lapierre)
Last Orders
Love & Duty - Vietnam POW (Purcell)
Reed Shaken By The Wind
The Road To Serfdom - Government and freedom (Hayek)
The Road
A Sense of The World
Walk In The Woods

Your titles are primarily non-fiction. Do men tend to avoid fiction—books that deal with relationships?
Surprising (or not), men find the characters and relationships quite fascinating. The Earth Is Enough, The Road, and Last Orders all dwell heavily on the relationships of the various characters. They are a reflection of real life and give a richness and authenticity to the stories.
[Nice. Couldn't have put it better myself. Thank you. —Editor.]

Any particular favorites?
As a group, it would be hard to pin down a clear favorite—although Harry Middleton’s The Earth Is Enough might be one. Member Conrad Beattie says he's loaned and given away numerous copies to men outside our group. It's a book that resonates deeply with men in the second half of life and speaks to what is valuable and important.

What books have led to good discussions?
Surprisingly, The Road To Serfdom led to some pretty good discussions about the role of government in the life of a nation. The Road also led to some good discussion—one of the topics being the story's futuristic, post-apocalyptic setting.

How do you choose your books?
We use a combination of rotation and voting. Each member in turn proposes three titles, which, along with brief descriptions, are emailed to everyone a week before the meeting.

Then we meet, and the first order of business is to vote for one of the three. A simple majority carries the vote. We select the title two months ahead of time in order to give everyone a chance to buy the book and read it.

Finally, any activities outside your regular meetings?
We live in an area where a good many Civil War battles were fought, so after reading Company Aytch, a Civil War memoir, we decided to plan a field trip to Pickett’s Mill, less than 30 minutes away. One of our members is an avid Civil War buff and has volunteered to give us in-depth tour of the battlefield.

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