Did you make a New Year’s resolution to read more? In addition to providing the public with the latest bestsellers and classics, Santa Monica Public Library offers a number of book groups at our branches. These groups meet on a monthly basis, are free to join and are open to everyone on a drop-in basis. They cover a number of genres and categories including: Mystery, General Fiction & Non-fiction, Popular Fiction, Prize winning Fiction, Classic Literature, Spanish language and the American Experience.
If you are a fan of murder and mayhem, we have two Mystery book groups for you, one at the Ocean Park Branch on the third Tuesday of the month, and another at the Montana Branch on the second Wednesday of the month, both at 7 p.m. I lead the Ocean Park Mystery Book Group, which focuses on international locations and authors; our February title is The English Assassin by Daniel Silva. The Montana Mystery Book Group is led by volunteers and covers a variety of American and International authors. In February they’re reading “The One From the Other” by Phillip Kerr about a cynical Private Investigator in post-WWII Germany.
Do you enjoy talking about the latest popular fiction books over a cup of hot chocolate or coffee? Then Fairview Branch’s “Book Club at Bolivar” could be right up your alley. This book club meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at Caf√© Bolivar (1741 Ocean Park Blvd.) and is led by Fairview Branch Manager Erica Cuyugan. Next month they will be discussing “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin, about a lonesome and curmudgeonly bookstore owner who finds new hope when a life-changing package is left at his store.
If Spanish is your native tongue, or you’re looking to improve your Spanish language skills, check out the “Lectura Buena” book group. This group meets in the Annex at the new Pico Branch the second Monday of the month at 4:30 p.m.; it is conducted in Spanish with fiction and nonfiction titles chosen by group decision. February’s discussion title is “Yaqui: Historia de una guerra popular y de un genocidio en M√©xico” by Paco Ignacio Taibo II.The book tells the story of an indigenous people that waged the longest armed resistance in the history of Mexico.
Are you a generalist with a variety of reading interests? We have book discussions for you too. The Ocean Park Book Group meets the first Saturday of the month at 11 a.m. This group is led by volunteers and covers a variety of fiction and nonfiction titles. In February they’ll discuss “The Unwinding” by George Packer, a National Book Award winner that is a gripping narrative survey of contemporary America. The Pico Branch Book Group considers itself an “open-format book group” reading quality titles from various genres including Young Adult, Mystery, and Horror; they meet the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. Their February title is “Snow Flower and The Secret Fan” by Lisa See. Lastly, the Montana Branch Book Group meets the third Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m.; their title for February is this year’s Santa Monica Reads pick, “Loungbourn” by Jo Baker.
Are you looking to explore the many unique cultures that make up the American experience? The American Stories Book Group at the Pico Branch focuses on books that illustrate the diversity of voices in our country. This group, which meets on the fourth Saturday of the month at 1:30 p.m., is volunteer-led with titles chosen by its members. February’s title is “The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, a young adult novel told in first person narrative by Native American teenager Arnold Spirit Jr., documenting his experience growing up on a reservation in Spokane, Wash.
Have you been meaning to read the Classics or work your way through a list of prize winning novels? Then the Literature Book Group at the Fairview Branch, or the Pulitzer Prize Book Group at the Ocean Park Branch, may appeal to you. The Literature Book Group meets the second Saturday of the month at 11 a.m. and will be reading “Typee” by Herman Melville in February. The Pulitzer Book Group meets the third Saturday of the month at 11 a.m.; their February title is “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, 1953 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, about the end of a fisherman’s dry spell which pulls him out to sea.
There’s definitely no shortage of book groups in the City of Santa Monica. We even have book clubs for kids and teens, which are listed on our library website (smpl.org). All book discussion titles are available for checkout from our libraries, either in print, electronic or audiobook format. If you’re looking for something to read with all of your neighbors, Santa Monica Reads returns in February for the 13th year of community reading. This year’s featured novel is “Longbourn” by Jo Baker, the story of the servants working in the Bennet household made famous in Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice. Our February “Library Lowdown” column will go into more detail about the five-week series and how you can get involved.
Karen Reitz is a librarian who manages the Ocean Park Branch Library and leads the Ocean Park Mystery Book Group. Her New Year’s resolution each year is to read more.