LitClub:  The Walking Book Club
The Gail Borden Public Library—Elgin, Illinois


NO GRASS GROWS under this group's feet. They're a walking-talking book club—they walk first then talk about their book later. It's a healthy workout for brains and gams.

Reading is a sedentary sport. What gave you the idea for a club that includes exercises?
Most of us are busy multi-taskers, and it turns out this was the perfect answer to our needs. We read and exercise, build community and friendships, and hold lively discussions along the way.

I'm worried—don't you EAT?
We do shy away from food because it defeats the purpose of the exercise, although we may find a healthy alternative in our Eat, Pray, Love adventure—we'll go as a group when the film comes out.

You meet every week. How do you make it work?
We break up our books into four parts and discuss a section a week. We meet at 7 pm, walk and talk for 30-45 minutes; then cool down and discuss the book for 45 minutes. It's a great way to run a book club!

Where do you walk?
Our library sits along the Fox River, which runs through Elgin. We have a beautiful bike-hike path, stretching for about 30 miles along the river.

So...what happens when it rains? You just give up?
We've got our bases covered: on rainy days we meet at The Centre of Elgin’s indoor walking track—which even set us up with a personal trainer once for fitness instruction on walking and stretching.

Do you have many takers?
As a matter of fact we do. The idea has become so popular we decided to lengthen our sessions. Even better...we attracted so many members we had to create two groups! Each averages 9-13 members a week.

That's impressive! So what are you reading?
We're only four months old, but here's our list so far:

Eat, Pray, Love
History of Love
Jim the Boy
Out Stealing Horses
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Thirteenth Tale
Widow's War
Water for Elephants

Any favorites?
The Thirteenth Tale encouraged great discussions with its intrigue and suspense.
The Widow's War gave us an opportunity to understand the main character's actions.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan gave us a deeper understanding of a unique culture and relationships.

What books led to particularly good discussions?
All our discussions have been good—for two reasons. First, we all have strong opinions, which keeps things interesting. Second, since we read a little each week, our discussions tend to be more in-depth, especially with characters. We also have fun trying to guess what will happen next.

Any disagreements or disappointment?
Out Stealing Horses—some loved the ambiguity while others hated it. Some felt the way the writer switches from present to past makes it hard to follow.

We also noticed a lack of emotion in the characters. As a result, some of us felt we never really understood the father, wanting to know more about him and his relationship with his family. It made us wonder if there is a cultural difference—if Norwegian readers view the characters' stoicism differently from US readers.

How do you choose your books?
We actually vote online! The library website has a blog that allows for online voting. This helps us determine future books. We vote monthly.

In fact, we do a fair amount of online discussion, too. Both The Thirteenth Tale and The Widow's War generated a lot of online blog activity! You can read more about the Walking Book Club on our blog.

Anything else?
Yes. We're applying for a grant to purchase several copies of the same Playaway so the group can listen, walk & talk. Finding a new way to Playaway!*

* [Playaways are palm-sized playback units that come pre-downloaded with collections of audio books. —Editor]

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