LitClub:  Novel Ideas
Gilbert, Arizona

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IN THE VALE of Arizona's Superstition Mountains, these readers make full use of their imagination. Ideas are their thing, which they find aplenty in novels (of course) and nonfiction.

We asked club coordinator, Kathi Hofferth, why she started Novel Ideas.
I'm a lifelong reader. When I was a kid, while others were biking and swimming, you'd find me in the neighborhood bookmobile. (I still can't go in the deep end of the pool!)

These days, I teach reading to Pre-K and elementary children. Starting the club was my way to talk about books with big people!

How and when did you get the group going?
We started through in January, 2010.

One of the benefits of Meetup is that it reaches those who have just moved to the area. Our group offers newcomers a way to meet people and make friends. (Several have even discovered they're from the same place!)

How many members?
Over 30, with a strong show of 15 every month. There is some rotation, but we have a group of die-hards who never miss a meeting.

Where do you meet?
At a coffee shop—wherever the lattes and frappucinos are!

Tell us what you've been reading this past year...
Since January, we've read ...
Gone With the Wind
Hunger Games
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Ellis Island (K. Kerrigan)
Lone Wolf
The Help

Any books over the years that led to good discussions?
The Help inspired great a conversation on diversity. As we read other books with this theme, we keep referring back to The Help.
• We took two months to read Gone With the Wind, and it was well worth it. We discussed the history and plight of women in that period and were also surprised that we came to like Scarlett!
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks kicked off a great discussion on cell research.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet taught us a lot about history and Japanese Americans.
• Lone Wolf opened up our ideas about the right to die and issues of life-support.
Lucy (Laurence Gonzales), the story of the Bonobo apes, led to a good discussion on genetic testing and alteration.
29 Gifts in 29 Days (Cami Walker) got us to talk about giving back to others.

There are so many books we have loved over the past 3 years, but one thing we learned is that most of these books we would not have picked on our own, if not suggested by someone, and that's been a great experience.

You invite outside speakers to your meetings.
Yes, we've had several so far. A librarian and "Scarlett" fan gave us great background on GWTW and, of course, on Scarlett and her endearing qualities.

New author, Anna Questerly, wrote The Minstrel's Tale for Junior High and High School students. We loved the book's magic.

A former prisoner, Sue Ellen Allen, shared her experiences in the Phoenix Perryville Prison for women. Her book, The Slumber Party from Hell, talked about the prison's appalling living conditions.

Yes, that brings up your donations to prison libraries.
We donate used books to our women's prison. We also support the non-profit Jessica's Operation Orange, which has filled up 6 libraries of books where the women had none before.

What do you do outside your meetings?
We do a lot. We've seen movies and a local theater production based on books, attended an event with Jodi Picoult when she visited our area, and took part in a panel on The Help at a local bookstore.

We also head to the local Fairground to attend our area's huge annual book sale—an event that's been going on for 50 years...and attracts 8,000 people. It's a great place for us to get multiple copies for next to nothing of books we've chosen as a club!

Overall, how would you describe your club?
We're a great group of ladies—mothers, grandmothers, working women, singles, retired, married, divorced, crafters, teachers. Our goal is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Many are new to Phoenix, coming from many other states. But we have one thing in common—we're all addicted to books!

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