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story.lead_photo.caption Jim Harper, Little Rock (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Jim Harper)

Jim Harper attended his first virtual book club meeting in mid-March.

"It's a wonderful book club; it's been together for 40 years," the Little Rock therapist says. "I've been in it for 20 years."

The group, numbering about 15, meets once a month, usually at a member's home.

On March 16, the club met on the Zoom online platform in a "room" set up by member Becky Wheeler.

"It was a little awkward at first," Harper says of the experience. "We just talked over each other at the beginning. I was thinking that being online might impede the discussion, but it went very well. I was very pleased with the experience."

Harper says club members seemed to enjoy the experience.

"The conversations weren't different from previous meetings. We had a fairly long and meaningful discussion about the book and discussions about the [covid-19] virus and living with the pandemic. Several members had a glass of wine in hand. It was a positive experience. We discussed A Thousand Small Sanities by Adam Gopnik; it's a thick read, wonderful for discussion."

Like many others, the Little Rock resident is also working from home.

"I'm doing my therapy sessions virtually and it's surprisingly effective."

On April 20, Harper says club members will discuss Little Rock author Mark Barr's Watershed.

And while Harper says he was pleased with the virtual meeting, he is "absolutely looking forward to getting back to the in-person meetings. And not just for the homemade cookies and snacks. I'll be happy to return to normal sometime."

The book club chooses its books annually.

"We each pitch our favorites, there's an online voting process and the books are selected by majority vote."

The only month the club doesn't discuss a book is January.

"We write a poem and bring it, folded and unsigned and put it into a box. We pass the box around, draw and read and try to guess who wrote it.

"I've written one poem a year for 20 years," he says, laughing. "That's it. Don't expect to see an anthology of my poetry!"

Style on 04/05/2020

Print Headline: Virtual book clubs fulfill a need to keep its members discussing

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