Subversive Groups to Meet at Library!

by Bill Peak

What would you do if I told you there were a sizeable number of people in Talbot County who read documents designed to stir the imagination and upset conventional thinking, that these people meet regularly, in private, to discuss what they've read and consider how they might put what they've learned into action in places like Easton and Trappe and St. Michaels?

Terrorist cells?! Is it a Communist plot?!

Well, no, as it happens, they're book clubs. And I've got to tell you, as someone who has met with any number of these groups, you would be hard-pressed to find a more radical lot.

No, really, I'm serious. They may serve tea and crumpets, the men may wear button-down shirts and blue blazers, the women tartans and lace, but these groups are potential hotbeds of revolutionary change. Their members read intently, think deeply about what they've read, and then come together to talk about what they've learned and how it might affect their lives and the lives of those around them. Marx would have called such get-togethers an example of the dialectic. Stalin would have called them anti-Soviet and had every last participant hauled off to the execution grounds. But I think Jefferson would have gotten it right. He would have called it democracy.

And he would have been so proud.

Book clubs are the inheritors of the enlightenment's free-thinkers: the merchants and mariners, craftsmen and farmers, who, in the second half of the eighteenth century, sat down in taverns and coffeehouses from Boston to Savannah to talk about how one might better human society ... and, in the process, found themselves starting a revolution. People who belong to book clubs are some of the best we have; they are what our Founding Fathers dreamt citizens of a free country would look like: Americans who take their freedom seriously, who know that the liberty to think and discuss openly, without fear of censorship or public disapproval, is a privilege that must be exercised if it is to survive. Which means they are people with hope, people who still believe our country and our world are not just good but capable of being better, that we are still rising, still improving, that—with good books, good thoughts, good discussions—who knows what ills we might yet cure, what frontiers we might cross, what new civilizations we might still establish?

Libraries have long provided fuel for such dreams. In keeping with that tradition, on Thursday, November 6, at 6:00 p.m., the Talbot County Free Library will put on a Book Club Extravaganza. Existing book clubs, people who want to start a book club, people who would like to join a book club—all will come together in the Easton library's main meeting room to share notes on their successes and failures: what worked and what didn't work, which books generated great discussions, and which maybe didn't.

You know we only get one shot at life. It would be a pity to go through it thinking about little more than dinner and what's going to be on television tonight. Why not come down to the library on the 6th and let your mind take wing?