Buying books for my kids and nephews at Christmas has been a fun tradition for me and not so much for the kids. It seems like a logical, useful and mentally stimulating gift that has not been well received in the past, and even now that they are older. I vaguely remember that reading was not my favorite hobby until I became a young adult. So, I have fervently tried to set a good example with them in the hope that they would grow to love reading too. As a young mother, I also began eating more vegetables, cursing less and being a bit more organized. It’s amazing what you will do when you know other people are watching your every move. Especially little children who mimic your words and behaviors.

In my attempts to be a better mother, I have gained so much more than I ever expected because of my commitment to read. The amazing truth behind this simple executed habit of reading was fully enforced and supported by The Bailey MOPS Book Club. Twenty years later, I am here to write about it and the benefits of our small but mighty club. Our first book was “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon. A bestselling modern classic that was a quick and easy read. This was a requirement by one of our members who didn’t want to read anything too long. So funny to look back now at how far we’ve come as readers. Our December 2023 book was “The Second Life of Mirielle West” by Amanda Skenandore. A 1920s historical fiction novel of a woman quarantined at the Carville Lepers Home in Louisiana. I really enjoyed this one and had no idea that we had leper colonies in the United States. It had never crossed my mind.

“Our book club has created a community and connection that I didn’t even know I needed.”

If you are a reader, you have your own story to tell and the impact that it has made in your life. And if you are a book club member, you are not only shaped by the stories, but by the conversations that erupt from controversial books and the emotions that trigger memories from your own life. It’s the sharing of our thoughts, ideas and interpretations at a book club of what has occurred to the characters and those implications in relation to our own lives. Our book club has created a community and connection that I didn’t even know I needed. Especially at that time of my life when I was a young mother—a time when I needed other women to support me through motherhood.

Through that community and connection, our book club developed camaraderie. Not only as mothers, but as women, wives and adult children. It’s been 20 years, and we have been growing and changing from young adults to empty-nesters, divorcees and parental caregivers. We have lovingly mocked each other for our poor book choices: Have you read the biography of Mark Twain? Snoozer! We prevented a total rollover when one of us almost flipped the car trying to park on the narrow driveway. In the winter, our mountain driveway edges are questionable as it’s covered by snow. We watched our children play in the creek while we drank wine on the back deck one summer afternoon, barely discussing the book and enjoying that precious moment in time. We’ve celebrated Halloween by dressing up and choosing a thriller; Christmas, exchanging white elephant gifts and drinking Lori’s famous eggnog, and movie nights watching “I Am Legend” as well as “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud” to make our comparisons.

After all the books, all the conversations, all the dinners and all the emails back and forth, my biggest takeaway is the friendships I’ve gained. C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” That I could gain a friend by reading the same book and discovering that we loved the same story or that we cried about the same line is a human attachment we are all looking for. It’s all I could ask for to have my children read the same book and feel a strengthening of our relationship through someone else’s words. It’s magic.

If you need some magic in your life and a book club, check out Facebook, ask a friend, or inquire at your local bookstore. There are readers just like you waiting to take an adventure, share some experiences and get together for dinner and drinks at Book Club!