A book club which began with the vision of a down-to-earth, inclusive group for book lovers is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The Definitely Not Plato Book Club, based at the Lethbridge Public Library, will officially mark the milestone with a special event March 29 from 7-9 p.m. at the library’s Theatre Gallery.
The event will feature a display of the nearly 200 books the club has read over the years, along with a club members’ Top 10 list.
The club began with an idea by Barb Gibson, who was a still new teacher in the Palliser Regional Schools system. Gibson envisioned a club where it didn’t matter “who had the most successful husband, the nicest home, the most well-behaved and intelligent children or who served the best tea at the meeting,” Gibson says.
So Gibson approached the Lethbridge Public Library with her idea for a book club that would meet at the library, to ensure meetings would be solely about the books.
“The book club I envisioned would be affiliated with the library,” Gibson says. “It would be inclusive, rather than exclusive. If people wanted to purchase the book that would be fine but if they couldn’t they need not feel left out since they could borrow the book from the library.”
As it turned out, library staff had been pondering the idea of starting a book club ao “They welcomed my proposal and my book club with open arms. They provided us with a venue and even put up ads.”
The club was originally called the Library Book Club until Sheila Braund, a library employee who is still on staff, came up with the idea for a different name after learning about another book club whose members were reading Great Books of the Western World. Braund, considering the more contemporary nature of the library’s book club, suggested the name “Definitely Not Plato” — and the name has remained.
The discussion topic for the club’s first meeting was “Have you read any good books lately?”
“I don’t recall exactly how many people showed up for that first meeting but I can tell you that some are still with the club as we celebrate our 20th year,” Gibson says.
Gibson left the club for a period of eight years after moving away for teaching jobs in Milo and later Arrowwood. When she returned to the Lethbridge area, she was thrilled to learn the club was still operating.
Members have come and gone over the years, Gibson notes, “but we usually have about 12 active members at any given time. Not everyone comes to every meeting but typically you could expect about eight people to show up.”
“We are definitely a down-to-earth club,” Gibson explains. “The meetings are very casual in the sense that we don’t follow an agenda at all — instead we’ll catch up for a bit and then, inevitably, someone will say, ‘So, what did you think of the book?’ And then we’re off. The discussions are lively and engaging and quite often those who initially didn’t like the book change their minds mid way and decide to give the book another chance.”
Members’ ages range from 30-something to 70-something, and while most are women, the club has had men participate through the years. “In fact, in the early days Duncan Rand, the chief librarian at the time, came to present at one meeting and decided to keep coming.”
The club has read a wide variety of books over the years, both fiction and non-fiction, ranging from little-known works to award-winning novels that became blockbuster films.
“There are so many books that I have read over the years that I would not have picked on my own that it blows me away,” says Gibson. “A perfect example is ‘The Game of Thrones.’ I’m not into fantasy. I’m more of a historical fiction/mystery/adventure/realistic fiction/non-fiction lover, so I really didn’t think I’d be able to get into ‘The Game of Thrones’ but it reads a bit like historical fiction and I was immediately hooked (dragons and all).”
Gibson says compiling the members’ top 10 list for the March 29 celebration event was a challenge.
“We had to put that out to everybody and have them choose 10 books out of those almost 200 books and rate them,” she says in an article by Palliser Regional Schools. “We’ve come up with a weighted list of our Top 10.”
Chapters has donated the Top 10 books to give away as part of the celebration.
The club has invited other book clubs to join the event to share their own book lists, and local authors have also been invited. The event, like the club itself, is open to anyone regardless whether they have been involved in the club in the past.
“I love the sharing of ideas in a book club,” Gibson says in the Palliser article. “When you have people coming together and they’ve all read the same book, you can have eight, 10, 12 different points of view about that book. It just opens your eyes to seeing the book in a different way.”
Sometimes Gibson will talk about a book she’s read with students in her classrooms at Hutterite colony schools at Albion Ridge and Gold Ridge, both north of Picture Butte.
“Having that experience of being in a book club and talking about a book in an informal manner, I can bring that to the kids. . . ‘What did you like about that chapter?’ ‘What did that make you feel like?’ ‘Does that remind you of anything?’. . . It really gets kids on fire to read.”
The Definitely Not Plato Book Club meets Wednesday evenings monthly, from September through June. A July meeting is set aside for planning the 10 titles to be read the following year with members making recommendations. Club information, including the upcoming title, can be found in the Lethbridge Public Library’s “Happening” newsletter.