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Thursday, September 16, 2021
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Pekin book club members find oasis in community of readers

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PEKIN, Ill. (AP) – The origins of the Next Chapter Adult Book Group go back far enough, the current facilitator is not quite sure how long the club has been in existence.

“I know it’s been at least 15 years,” said Beth Bradford, head of information services at the Pekin Public Library.

Next Chapter meets the first Monday of each month in the Community Room at the Pekin Public Library. Half of the group’s membership meets at 2 p.m. and the other half meets at 6:30 p.m. Bradford selects the month’s book, generally a work of contemporary fiction, and members discuss it at the meeting.

“Beth is a marvelous leader, because she supplements the book with information about the subject matter or information regarding the author,” said Next Chapter member Sue Meisner of Forest City. “So, we’ve got background information that helps us better understand the material we’re going to be discussing.”

Meisner added she commutes 30 miles to attend Next Chapter meetings because she loves being part of a community of readers.

“It’s an oasis,” she said. “We read contemporary fiction for the most part, and some non-fiction. It challenges us. Our book discussions are stimulating and (the club) is invigorating. I don’t have too many friends who are keen readers like I am.”

Next Chapter member Connie Lenox, of South Pekin, has been an avid reader since her childhood and served on South Pekin’s library board when that community still had a library. Left to her own devices, she does not believe she would have read some of the books the group discusses. However, she has enjoyed all of the books the library has selected for Next Chapter.

“The camaraderie of fellow readers leads to good conversations and good discussions,” said Lenox. “I would advise people to come and give (Next Chapter) a try.”

Next Chapter’s most recent project was a discussion of Jeanine Cummins’s 2020 novel “American Dirt,” the story of a Mexican woman and her son fleeing drug cartels and escaping to the United States as undocumented immigrants. Group member Bonnie Dentino of Pekin very much enjoyed the book’s fast pace, but complained that it forced her to violate a personal reading rule.

“It’s the first book I’ve ever read where I cheated and looked at the back to be sure (the characters) made it,” she said with a laugh.

Next Chapter currently has about 40 members, according to Bradford. New members are always welcome to sign up at the Pekin Public Library. For more information, visit pekinpubliclibrary.org.

“This is the best distribution of taxpayers’ money available anywhere,” Meisner stated. “It is free to the public, and anyone can join this group. It’s a wonderful tribute to the Pekin Library district that they’re able to reach out and have such a program.”

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Source: Pekin Daily Times, https://bit.ly/3dtHQlR

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