December 23, 2020
Indianapolis book club celebrates 40th anniversary

Several months ago, a book club reached out to our staff who manages the Novel Conversations lending library for book clubs. The club inquired about donating some books to the collection in honor of the 40th anniversary of their group’s founding. We were interested, of course, so we asked them to forward along a list of available titles, and they sent a spreadsheet featuring 447 different books! We were truly blown away by the group’s commitment to spend decades together in fellowship over the pages of so many beloved books. As such, we asked them to reflect a little on their group’s history for us to share with others. Below, you’ll find words from one of the book club’s members, David Dawson:



The Indianapolis club has no name and no leader, but for 40 years its members have faithfully gathered once a month to share books they’ve discovered.

The book group began in the fall of 1980 when four couples in a Northside babysitting co-op met for wine and dessert to chew over Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. They agreed to meet at a different house each month with the hosts assigning the books and leading the reviews. That night started a thrilling adventure of sharing experiences in the printed word and discovering new ideas and new friends.

Since then, the club’s discussions have included 447 classics, best-sellers, nonfiction, poetry and even court cases. Several authors have joined the discussions of their own works. The couples take field trips, such as a night at the races when reading Seabiscuit and a visit to the Kurt Vonnegut Museum while reading Cat’s Cradle. Presenters have been in costume, have used music and shown videos to make their points. Often, hosts pick desserts that recall locations and events in their books. Forty authors appear more than once in the list of selections. The champion is historian David McCullough, who’s made the list four times.

After four decades, the four original couples remain in the eight-couple group. When they started, book clubs for couples were rare. Publishers and media have been interested in how well that works. Besides literature, the couples share lives: births, graduations, triumphs and tragedies. The commitment of all members to choose good books, research authors and prepare thought-provoking questions has kept this 40-year-old institution alive.

Pictured here in April of 2016 are all 16 members of the Indianapolis book club: Carla and Don Bennett, Marcia and Lew Beckwith, Julia and Jack Wickes, Susan Guyett and David Dawson, Jo Dee and Thom Grau, Diann and Bill Ryan, Chris and Bob Hartley, and Mary Louise and Craig Turner.

Feeling inspired to start your own decades-long book club? You can get book kits shipped anywhere in the state for free with our Novel Conversations lending library, which loans more than 900 titles, primarily fiction and biography, to reading and discussion groups all over Indiana, free of charge. Learn more here.

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