LitClub:  New Tampa / Wesley Chapel Book Club
Tampa, Florida

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THEY DON'T LOOK like they're in a chapel—a little raucous for that. But they're to be excused. New to their area, these women have connected in a powerful way with one another, making good friends and good conversation over books.

Your name suggests you meet in a chapel...but it doesn't quite look like it.
No. We meet in restaurants and each other's homes. New Tampa and Wesley Chapel are simply names for townships in the Tampa, Florida, area.

You're all new to the Tampa area?
Right. These are newly created communities, and everyone is from somewhere else—the Northeast, Midwest, even as far away as England. When a new member joins, the #1 Question we ask is "where are you from?"

How many members now?
We once had 148, but we're down to 25 die-hard members—a much more manageable size. We now have a $15 membership fee, which ensures we get members who are really committed.

So tell us what you've been reading recently.
Here's our list for the past year:
Sandcastle Girls
White Queen
Water for Elephants
Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close
Into the Darkest Corner
Angry Housewives...Bon Bons
City of Women
Gone Girl
Light Betweens Oceans
Night Circus

Any all time favorites?
The Help and The Language of Flowers are two standouts for us.

How about books that led to great discussions?

  • Still Alice led to a lively discussion. In fact, because of the unsettling nature of the book, the discussion got rather heated.

  • Sandcastle Girls surprised us with what we learned about the Armenian people and genocide. It's a part of history that isn't widely discussed.

  • Sarah's Key also taught us about part of the Holocaust that many of us weren't familiar with.
Any disappointments?
Digging to America bored us, and Fifty Shades is just poorly written, trashy, and unreal.

Tell us about your Facebook page.
We have a closed-group page on Facebook, which acts like a think tank! We use it to plan and strategize, come up with book suggestions and book-related topics.

You have something you refer to as a "Library on Wheels."
It's really a book exchange. Our organizer pulls in a luggage bag on wheels packed with books. We pick and choose and add our own books to the mix. It's run on the honor system—if you borrow a book, you're expected to return it by the next meeting.

Aside from reading, what else do you do as a group?
We like to go to movies and performances based on books—Anna Karenina and the musical Wicked, and we're planning an Oz the Great and Powerful movie night. We'll also be attending a play at our local theater based on How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. For The Namesake we headed out to an Indian restaurant, and we're planning to do more themed meals. We also offer Therapeutic Journaling by a member who is herself a writer and has a lot of experience with journaling.

What else would you like us to know about your club?
The book club is a source of friendship, especially because so many of us are new to the area. It's hard to meet like-minded people, so for most of us the the book club has a very special connection. We vary in ages, professions and backgrounds, and that's what makes the group so rich and rewarding.

Finally, for those interested in learning more about our club, contact us through Meetup.

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