In an article in The New York Times, writer James Atlas points out that there are about 5 million Americans participating in some kind of book club. They meet in living rooms, in local libraries, in bars, and online. claims to have 25 million members and was recently sold to Amazon. There are book clubs for seniors, youth, co-workers, and only men or only women.

One of the most appealing things about book clubs is that they sometimes generate aha! moments when the group coalesces and are united in tribute to a truth expressed in the book being discussed. Other times, dialogue can break down when someone hogs center stage or a needy person goes off topic and shares his/her troubles. That is why some groups are now hiring professional group facilitators. Another new development is seeing authors taking the role of master-of-ceremonies or moderator for a fee. Naturally, in this age of celebrity, groups are eager to have such creative people in their midst and thankful for the publicity.

We are pleased to see books being put to such good use, and we wish all these clubs well as they experiment with structure and formats. We have always seen the reading of books — fiction and nonfiction — as a spiritual activity that fires the imagination, stirs our soul, and opens our hearts and minds to the great mysteries of life. In Morning, Noon and Night, Arnold Weinstein writes that we read literature "in order to live more, to live differently, to have a precious vicarious experience that is available in no other way." He describes great fiction as a blood transfusion that can bring us new life and a personal transformation. So think of book clubs as transfusion centers!

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