Commonwealth Book Club enters its sixth year

The Commonwealth Book Club began its sixth year last Saturday, when eight members gathered at the Meadowdale Library to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court.  The book club, which began with a 2005 op-ed column in the Village News, has consistently devoted itself to the discussion of serious non-fiction, including books, current events, science, politics, social issues, the environment, and history.

Chester resident Chris Wiegard, a public librarian who has led the group for the past three years, attributes the club’s survival to its founders decision “to avoid pomposity and pursue civility”.  As a result, says Wiegard, “we have shared thoughtful, lively, and amusing discussions”.

The club’s ethic of civility has survived considerable changes in its initial membership of twelve.  Six original members remain active, while other strong contributors have come and gone - particularly Irwin and Renee Shishko, who frequently hosted club meetings.  

But, says Wiegard, the club has been lucky in attracting new members to enliven its discussions and contribute new ideas.

“Looking back I am satisfied that the group has had many illuminating conversations, and has achieved the basic objective of any book group: a good overall experience that keeps people coming back, plus enticing people to read and appreciate books that they would not manage to read on their own.”

From the beginning, this club has chosen non-fiction.  Early titles included: Only Yesterday, Frederick Lewis Allen’s history of the 1920’s; The Good Book, a progressive approach to scripture by Peter Gomes; and Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling Blink.

More recently, the club’s readings have included:  Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (the source for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln movie, recently filmed in the area);  Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, a forecast of the future of space exploration; and Edmund Morris’ Theodore Rex.

One innovation which has enlivened the club’s discussions has been an occasional “choose your own title” month, such as this month’s session on the Supreme Court.  

For February 11, the club will read Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World, by Chris Stewart.  The March selection is Jeffrey Sachs’ The Price of Civilization.   In April, the club will celebrate Shakespeare’s 448th birthday by discussing Will in the World, by Stephen Greenblatt.

The Commonwealth Book Club welcomes new members who share its commitment to high standards of civility, whereby members express opinions as opinions, rather than preaching certainties.  Prospective members of the Commonwealth Book Club should contact Chris Wiegard at chriswiegard@hotmail.com.

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