When Chappaqua resident Kate Feher moved into the area four months ago she quickly missed the bonds she had made back home.
As a first-time mom adjusting to her new life in Chappaqua, Feher said she struggled to meet people and make friends. Her longing for friendship led her on a search to joining a group she had never been apart of before; a book club. But for Feher, her search for a friendly neighborhood book club turned into a grand effort to start her own group.
“I posted on the Chappaqua Moms Facebook page if anyone was part of a book club that needed new members. I thought I’d be meeting 10 to 12 ladies when I made that post,” Feher said. “I got over 100 responses and realized there was a clear and untasked need and excitement around joining a book club.”
As Feher began organizing her newest venture, she said it was imperative the club have equal ambition and wine. “People are looking for intellectual stimulation, but also social connection and book clubs have a good balance of both,” she said. “Reading is good down time and if you have a book club forcing you to take some down time hopefully it helps people take time for themselves.”
On Nov. 1, Feher kicked off the first meeting of the Chappaqua Moms Book Club, a group comprised of roughly 75 women from Chappaqua, Bedford, Briarcliff, Pound Ridge and other neighboring towns.
With 75 a large number for a community book club, Feher said the club will be broken down into five separate groups who will meet once a month at a place of their choosing and control their reading choices. While each group will run autonomously, suggestions will be made by Feher based on a survey she issued to members prior to the November meeting.
Suggested books include, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, The Power by Naomi Aiderman, and Less by Andrew Sean Greer.
While the entire group will meet once a year to discuss their experiences and reading choices, she added that the club was less about books and more about meeting other people in the community and making new friends. Women like me with new children that really don’t know anyone just want to get to know other people, she said.
“I think a lot of people use social media to connect but it’s a digital connection, it’s not a person-to-person meeting and I think people are missing that,” Feher said. “I think this is a way for people to get to know others and feel more connected to the community. People in the community and so many women are so hungry for it.”
But women aren’t the only one’s hungry for engaging conversation. For Armonk resident Daniel Vock, it was his passion for history and topical news that served as the catalyst to launch his Current Affairs Book Club five years ago at the North Castle Library.
After attending a similar book club in Greenwich, Conn., Vock approached library officials with the idea of starting his own club in Armonk. Since then, he has collaborated with North Castle Library librarian Mary Johnson to obtain non-fiction reading material either listed on The New York Times bestseller list or suggested by the groups five core members.
With the group meeting on the second Tuesday of each month, excluding August, Vock said their 90-minute discussion will revolve around the book, and what’s happening in the news, which Vock said always results in a lively discussion.
“We learn from reading the book and we learn from each other,” Vock said. “If you don’t learn from history, history will repeat itself again. And that’s what we feel we’re seeing now, and we learn from debating.”
Along with reading books, Vock said they will occasionally invite the books author or other historical authors and specialists to join the book club in their discussions.
But while most book clubs are comprised primarily of women, Vock said his group, comprised of all men, struggles to attract female membership. With energetic discussions and debate a core value of the club, he added he also wishes residents who are in support of President Donald Trump would join the group to enable a more well-rounded debate. “We’re missing that component to the club because we can’t build on those opinions,” Vock said.
Despite the occasional controversial topics up for discussion, Vock said his group of “fair-minded” men gives senior citizens, like himself, the opportunity to get together and talk about the many national and international issues facing them. He joked it also gives his wife a break from his political gab.
“The men that are in this group I consider as brilliant and well-informed people who have led a full life, have seen a lot of things and have a lot to contribute,” Vock said. “We want to learn and exchange ideas rather than impose points of view.”
Chappaqua resident Holly Blum, who has been a member of Words with Wine Book Club since 2013, agreed that book clubs provide a night out and enlist members from all different backgrounds, education and upbringing to contribute and provide a more dynamic dialog.
“I’ve met a lot of great people through the book club,” Blum said. “What I really like about it is that it brings together a lot of different women who I would not have had the opportunity to know of otherwise.”
Blum said she appreciates her book club because they allow the reader to reflect on their experience with the book, while also giving room to reexamine the book with the roughly three-hour discussion that erupts during their monthly meetings.
“The women in the book club are not particularly shy about sharing their opinions,” Blum said. “It’s really an opportunity to get together with semi-likeminded people who enjoy a glass of wine, who like to read and hopefully have something interesting to contribute, book related or not.”
The need for stimulating conversation, friendship and community is exactly why Armonk resident Anita Luden Greenwald started Book Club Armonk three years ago.
While her kids were growing up, Greenwald said she was part of an Armonk-based book club for 16 years until it eventually disbanded due to residents retiring or moving out of the area. Some time later when her kids were all grown up and out of the house, Greenwald said she was in search for a new group of people who shared her desire for camaraderie and had a commitment to the community.
When a search on the Armonk Moms Facebook forum led her to a thread about reading and book suggestions, she decided to launch the Armonk Book Club.
“I got this resounding yes from people I didn’t know to join this book club,” Greenwald said. “I reserved a table at Beehive Restaurant and we all came with books we wanted to read. We had 12 to 15 people come and it was incredible.”
Book Club Armonk is comprised of 12 Armonk residents who meet monthly at a members’ home for snacks, wine and conversation. With books chosen a year in advance, the group will provide suggestions on reading material, and the books that share an overlap will ultimately be chosen. The rest is based on reviews, Greenwald said.
“It’s very democratic,” she said. “Somebody inevitably is always organized with questions from a book club guide, but someone will start talking about how they felt about a book and then everyone continues to chime in.”
While most book clubs choose their selection based on the book, Book Club Armonk centers their choice on the author.
“We choose an author, so you can read whatever book you want by the author and then compare notes and look at similar writing styles,” Greenwald said. “It’s really an interesting way to do a book club. Everybody was willing to try this, and through our Facebook page we poll to see who the author will be.”
Since she pioneered the group, Greenwald said it’s something she looks forward to every month, adding that the group encourages people to talk about more than gossip but share in intellectual discussion and get to know each other on an intimate and personal level. When you run into other members in town, it’s so nice, she said.
But as an avid reader, she said there’s nothing better than getting lost in a book.
“Books take you on a voyage to other locations, other cultures and other time periods,” she said. “There’s nothing like having a cup of tea with your book with the fireplace going. It’s perfect.”