My interests and understandings of stories got a big boost from a unique experience I had in medical school. During my sophomore year, a new faculty member, Dr. Jose Barchilon, joined the Department of Psychiatry. Shortly after his arrival, he came to our class to offer us a non-credit novel seminar, or book club, if you will.
He said that we would read the classics, meaning before Freud and Jung, together, and learn our lessons about human psychology from them, his premise being that the classics were “classics” because their authors were superb observers of human behavior. A group of about a dozen of us spent the next three years reading a novel and getting together with Dr. Barchilon to discuss it every couple of months, beginning with Huckleberry Finn and finishing with War and Peace, along with Crime and Punishment and about a dozen others (50 years after the fact I simply cannot recall all the ones we read).
He recommended we read each book 3 times, once to get the overall story, once to notice the details, and a final reading to put it all together.
Heights Neighborhood Library (Houston)
This group met once a month on a Saturday afternoon. It was composed of both young and old, and all with a passionate interest in literature.
Every 3 or 4 months we met with our individual suggestions for future reading, and then proceeded to vote on the choices.
During each session we discussed the book and were led in the discussion by the person who had selected the book. The part I most appreciated was the ending, where we went around the circle so each person could offer their final comments on the book.
I’m not sure if the group still meets.
Julie and Tom
After I retired and moved back to Colorado, I was ready to read to my heart’s content and tried out every book group in town, but soon discovered that book group meant reading anything that could be called a book. I also discovered I was truly only interested in reading literature, meaning books of the type Dr. Barchilon had introduced us to.
Then one Christmas about 7 years ago, when I was visiting my daughter Julie and her family, I took the next, and so far, final step. Her husband Tom had received an iPod as a gift, and I had given him an audio book to go on it and helped him download the book, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. As we were downloading it, he suggested we all 3 read it and then discuss it over the phone.
We did that, and I assumed that would be it, but when we finished, Tom asked what we were going to read next. We have continued to read and discuss 5 or 6 books a year since then, and I, for one, have found it most satisfying and rewarding.
Thank you Julie and Tom for your persistence and faithfulness.