The Book Babes of Crooked Creek
Finding clever ways to enjoy reading, fellowship
STORY & PHOTOS BY
When Janet Sweet moved into Crooked Creek, a 650-home neighborhood in Milton, she mentioned to her realtor that she would be looking for a book club. As luck would have it, the realtor happened to belong to the neighborhood book club. Thus, after merely three days in her new home, Sweet became a Crooked Creek Book Babe.
“Our motto is ‘Reading is Sexy,’” said Sweet, who now serves as the group’s co-chair. “Reading is good for the mind, body and soul. When we read, we feel confident because we have things to talk about and opinions to share. There’s nothing sexier than that!”
The Book Babes are skilled at finding creative ways to keep their monthly gatherings fresh and energized. They have hosted several well-known area authors such as Jennifer Arnold and Karen White for a “Meet the Author” series.
Sweet and co-chair Sheree Arrington worked with a local wine store to organize a “Book and Wine Pairings” event. Book titles within a certain genre were suggested to accompany tastings of various types of wine. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon was paired with books containing “bold undertones of mystery and crime,” such as “The Ice House” by Nancy J. Cohen. Chardonnay’s “creamy complexity with a touch of spice” went well with “chick lit” like “If You Were Here” by Jen Lancaster.
What do the Babes do with their books when they have finished a discussion? Share them, of course. In an effort to expand the local community of readers, the Babes made book club starter kits containing several copies of popular novels, discussion questions and tips on how to form a new book club. The kits will be donated to the new Milton library when it opens.
Gatherings of the Book Babes are held in members’ homes, and everyone arrives bearing delicious appetizers and desserts. No one is allowed to leave hungry. In fact, the friends were recently inspired to gather their favorite recipes in a homemade cookbook, “Cookin’ and Bookin’ with the Book Babes.”
At a recent meeting, 15 Book Babes, armed with plates of delectable delights and full wine glasses, settled in for a spirited discussion of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, a medical tale that touched on several hot-topic issues like patient rights, informed consent and racial strife.
“You know you’ve picked a great book to discuss when nearly every Book Babe weighs in with a passionate — and sometimes polarizing — perspective of the story,” said Sweet. “And yet no one person tries to ‘win’ the discussion. What I love about this book club is our willingness to thoughtfully and respectfully share different perspectives. Sometimes that’s a brave thing to do. We keep the focus on broadening, not commanding, our horizons.”
Cathy Caron appreciates the fact that the Babes introduce her to different topics and genres she would not have explored on her own.
“I’m a better and more interesting person because of it,” she added.
Lorie Quillin-Bell, a first-time visitor with the Book Babes, wasted no time in joining the conversation.
“Reading is my escape,” she said. “At the end of a busy day, I need some ‘me time.’ I usually read to be quiet, but I loved this book and wanted to talk about it.”
“I’m the same way,” she said. “When I read something good, I just have to share it. And you can’t just walk up to random people on the street and say ‘Hey, let me tell you about this book I just read!’”
Caron said that her previous book club was much more orderly and formal.
“They only discussed the book…” she began.
“Unlike here, where everyone talks at once,” interrupted Maria Daly, prompting laughter from the group.
Arrington shook her head with a smile.
“Yes, we somehow manage to have lively fellowship and serious conversation all at once,” she said.
Sweet pointed out that there are virtual book clubs now where people can chat online with strangers, but said she would miss the fellowship of a group meeting.
Bonnie Gray bemoaned the loss of real conversation in today’s world.
“I read somewhere that 80 percent of all communication is non-verbal now,” she said. “But you really can’t get a sense of someone without meeting and seeing them in person. Wanting to connect with someone face to face is not old-fashioned, it’s innate. We are just made that way.”
“So I suppose book clubs foster an unmet need,” mused Sweet. “Our need for interpersonal communication.”
Edna Rawling summed it up nicely.
“Book clubs make the world smaller,” she said. “I get to know new people and neighbors and share something that I absolutely love to do — reading.”
The Book Babes of Crooked Creek recommend the following novels to fellow readers:
The Forgotten Garden
By Kate Morton
In this novel of inner and outer journeys, a tiny girl, Nell, is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book — a beautiful volume of fairy tales. Years later, Nell sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her identity, but it is her granddaughter, Cassandra, who will unlock Nell’s secrets in a forgotten garden on the Cornish coast.
State of Wonder
By Ann Patchett
Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug. In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, “State of Wonder” leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
By Mark Haddon
Christopher John Francis Bone is autistic. He knows every prime number up to 7,057 but has no understanding of human emotions. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. When his neighbor’s dog is found dead, Bone is initially blamed for the killing and he turns to Sherlock Holmes for inspiration in tracking down the real killer. Haddon has written a deeply funny, poignant and fascinating portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing is a mind that perceives the world literally.