La Jolla book clubs keep the page turned to community
Fledgling or fully formed, online or in person, dozens of area book clubs provide their members with literature and connection.
Here are some of them in La Jolla:
At the library
Katie Dunahoo organizes a book club that meets at 1:30 p.m. the second Monday of each month at the La Jolla/Riford Library at 7555 Draper Ave. The club is open to new members and is “democratic,” with the year’s selection of books pitched and voted on every August, Dunahoo said.
Dunahoo, who has headed the club the past 10 of its more than 20 years, said the group avoids romance and self-help genres but is otherwise “omnivorous.”
Currently, 12 to 15 members attend consistently, she said, and though most live in La Jolla, the club attracts a diverse group of people from all over.
At the YMCA
Athena Miller “loosely” runs a book club at the Dan McKinney Family YMCA at 8355 Cliffridge Ave. that is open to anyone, regardless of YMCA membership. “I just keep everyone on the same page,” she said.
Miller said the club, which meets at 12:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month, has been going longer than her more than two-decade membership in it.
She’d like more members to join. “More people make for a better discussion,” Miller said.
A wide variety of genres is represented in the members’ selections, she said. “All of us have different favorites,” providing the opportunity to read authors they usually might not.
Anyone interested in joining either of the above book clubs can simply attend the next meeting, organizers said.
Docents and retirees
For years, La Jollan Ken King has run a book club for current and former docents of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
The club, which has about 20 members, focuses primarily on nature-oriented books, though some fiction titles focus on science. Its monthly meetings are held on Zoom.
The books are “just picked by consensus,” King said.
His wife, Sheryl King, runs a book club open to residents of their retirement community, White Sands. The subjects range from trending nonfiction to politically oriented titles.
Ken King said the White Sands club has about 10 members and meets every other month on Zoom, or in person if members are comfortable.
Chat & Chew
One group that calls itself Chat & Chew has been meeting since 1993. It’s composed largely of women whose then-high-school-age children in La Jolla participated in American Field Service exchange programs.
Original member Lynn Knize said the club’s nine participants meet monthly at a member’s house on a rotating schedule for lunch and book discussion.
Chat & Chew members vote on suggested books and usually end up with fiction, though nonfiction is selected occasionally.
Knize said new members are added as current members invite them.
Another group, called Scintillating Six, or Sin Six, has been meeting for 20 years and has read more than 100 books, mostly fiction, member Judith Johnson said.
The club of six women met on a rotating basis at the home of the member who suggested the current book for a dinner themed for the book. The group has met at a restaurant for lunch since the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson said.
Johnson said the tight-knit group got together through an affiliation with UC San Diego and won’t meet unless everyone is available. The women celebrate birthdays and more along the way.
“This is really a friendship club who enjoys reading books together,” Johnson said.
UC San Diego clubs
The UC San Diego Emeriti Association, a group of retired faculty members, has a book club that meets monthly.
The club has 12 regular participants across several UCSD departments, including health sciences, political science, literature and theater, and reads books “on anything thought to be interesting,” said Roger Spragg, who helps manage the club.
Usually, he said, that means nonfiction and history.
The group has been meeting on Zoom since the onset of the pandemic, but Spragg said he looks forward to resuming in-person meetings at the UCSD Faculty Club on campus.
Also at UCSD, its Retirement Association, in which membership is available to any retired employee of the university, has a book club of about 130 members that meets monthly. The meetings have been on Zoom the past two years.
The members read fiction books almost exclusively. “Everybody’s bringing some of their own background, their own area of interest,” said Suzan Cioffi, director of the Retirement and Emeriti associations.
To help La Jollans stay fully booked with reading ideas, Warwick’s bookstore in The Village offers book suggestions and discounts to members of book clubs registered there.
More than 70 local book clubs are currently registered with the store, said Warwick’s bookseller Mary Lee Delafield. Some of them have existed for 25 to 35 years. Most of the clubs are 90 percent women.
Every staff member at Warwick’s has been or is in a book club, Delafield said, so “we definitely are very good at suggesting titles that would be good for book clubs, because frankly, not all books lend themselves to discussion.”
“Sometimes book clubs need a kick start,” Delafield added. “I spoke to a book club about five years ago that had been the same group of women in La Jolla for 25 or 30 years and they just felt like their book selections were getting stale.
“I just gave them a little book talk and off they went.” ◆
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