Monday, May 30, 2011

Online and inline for reading

For central Mass. book clubs
• Seeking others who love reading? Scanning through, one finds dozens of interest groups, among them readers and writers.
• Leominster’s “Literary Critics” lists 60 members. Find it at
• There are 53 members in Baldwinville’s Cover to Cover Book Club, which meets at Gardner cafes and homes. You can find them on Facebook, or at
• Candlelight Readers Circle of Ware’s 17 members are also on the Net. Look for them at (
• Check out the Mark Twain House web site for a listing of Connecticut-area book discussions and author appearances it sponsors, including The Nook Book Club’s Harriet Beecher Stowe discussion on June 2, and an imaginative day dedicated to family activities surrounding Tom Sawyer, “Yo Ho—The Pirate’s Life,” on June 11.

Explore the writing of T.C. Boyle
Los Angeles novelist and short story writer T.C. Boyle, wry and insightful, writes across a diverse territory of very human characters in conflict with their world. While he’s among the most-published writers in the magazine world, not many book clubs read him yet. I first encountered Boyle through short stories like “Greasy Lake” and “Dogology.” Two of his novels, The Tortilla Curtain and Talk Talk, are favorites. His latest is When the Killing’s Done, exploring the conflict between animal rights activists and biologists. While he sticks to fiction, he’s creatively explored the life of architect and philanderer Frank Lloyd Wright in The Women and the cornflakes’ founder, John Harvey Kellogg, in The Road to Wellville. He even hit on Alfred Kinsey in The Inner Circle.

The dearly departing

Feeling inundated? Cluttered? There are solutions.
Those who love the sensations of paper and print, clinging to books despite electronic readers, can become hoarders of the best sort, jamming books into bags and backpacks, squeezing them onto shelves and bedside tables, sharing them with friends. But sometimes friends must part—at least those less-loved—and that’s where library sales, second-hand stores, book boxes and book swaps come in. In some cases, donated books make a big difference in others’ lives.
‘Read It and Reap’ feedback indicates readers stand firm: Give us this day our daily book! They treasure their books. As the mega-stores pare down their books and extend into other retail areas, we may even see a resurgence of small, independent bookstores. Every town needs a place to read, hang out with computer/wifi, meet friends, buy books and enjoy coffee and snacks. Is there anything better?
Admittedly, e-readers are aboard airplanes, in cafes and waiting rooms, but books aren’t going away. The reading life is about more than a screen: collectors love to acquire, and book lovers are no different. But we all need to thin the shelves occasionally. With over 1,000 books, I'm faced with the task too often, gleaning the chaff from the shelves. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Here are some ways to pare down:
• Book exchanges. Have each club member bring books to a meeting. You set the rules: book for book, or open selection. Donate what’s left over to the local library.
• Store collections. Some cafes, like the Starbucks in Leominster, have a nook for “leave-one, take-one” choices. We’ve even seen them at The Strand movie theater lobby in Clinton, in medical offices, even some very good ones in our hairstylist’s waiting room.
• The Prison Book Program ( This national organization's Massachusetts chapter is in the basement of United First Parish Church in Quincy, as the "Lucy Parsons Bookstore." Donated books in good condition are redistributed to prisoners throughout the state, to provide educational and recreational reading for prisoners, especially as state budgets reduce funds for such materials. Prisoners aren’t allowed books from family or friends; they must either be shipped from bookstores and publishers or received through the prison library. This program accepts books with an ISBN (bar code) on the cover or jacket, and textbooks no more than three years old, but not damaged books, encyclopedias or academic journals and magazines. Phone (617) 423-3298 or write for drop-off details.
•'s buyback program accepts recent textbooks from a designated listing. You'll be paid, if they're accepted, with an credit.
• Used bookstores vary as to which topics they like, but often have websites listing their preferences. The Toadstool, an excellent bookstore with used and new books, is in Keene and Peterborough, N.H. The Book Bear on Route 9, West Brookfield ( is a big store, buying and selling. The Rabbit Hole in Fitchburg features an eclectic collection including used vinyl and books. The Haunted Bookshop in W. Boylston is another specialty shop with collections of uncommon books on history, art, medieval life. Call (508) 835-4738 for details. Barely Read Books on Route 20 in Sudbury is terrific. While some shops are better, and more varied, payback is usually a few dollars.
• Libraries. Most libraries hold daily, weekly and annual book sales as a way to raise money for operations. Worcester Public Library's "storefront" bookshop is open most days. Libraries love your new used books, children's books, classics in good condition, how-to manuals and cookbooks. (Check upcoming library sales at
• Worcester. John and Anne-Marie Monfredo, founders of Worcester: The City that Reads Committee, run an annual book drive (the fifth ended in May), seeking books for children in preschool through Grade 8. They are distributed to schools, preschools and local organizations in June. For more information, call the Monfredos at (508) 853-3444.
Ann Connery Frantz’s past columns are included on her blog about books and book clubs at (note the two ee’s). Email comments or questions to