April 21, 2005
By David Urano
One's a lifelong reader. "I grew up in the country, so it was cornfields or books. I usually chose the books."
The other's a reading convert. "The first book I read, 'The Chronicle of Narnia,' was so exciting I read the entire series in one summer. I thought, 'If I can read all those, I can keep reading.'" And so she does.
Together, linguistics majors Talya Strader (the convert) and Leah Overholt (the lifelong book lover) formed the Front Room Book Club. The two work at the Baker University Center coffee shop, and they were inspired by a customer who spent many summer mornings talking with them about books. After working out minor details with their supervisor, Tim Hogan, such as who would run the book club (Talya and Leah) and how to pay for the books (money from the university's contract with Pepsi takes care of that), the club began accepting members fall quarter.
Eight students soon signed up to delve into Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" and do what very few college students take time for - read for pleasure. They followed that one with "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. The club met twice again during winter quarter, initially to discuss "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers and then to deliberate Jean-Dominique Bauby's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death." Right now they're reading Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina." They'll discuss that at their next meeting May 3 and will get "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman. So if you're interested in joining, stop by in May.
And the discussions are lively. Talya says she and Leah have a hard time getting a word in once things get rolling. Perhaps the readers are fueled by the generous urn of Front Room coffee on a nearby table, but more likely it's the passion they share for books that keeps them going.
Senior Erin Brennan, an early childhood development major, has been with the club from the beginning. For her, the best part is the opportunity to talk books with other people.
Finding the time to read is important to her. "I do it for myself," she says. "It's my relaxing time."
Talya and Leah agree the club succeeds because it's fun to hang out with people and share thoughts about a book without the pressure of a class.
"This will sound corny," Leah says, "but books are like friends. You can have old friends and go visit them. You can have adventures and have fun and enjoy."
No, Leah, that doesn't sound a bit corny. It sounds like someone who knows the joy of reading.
The students in this story demonstrate how creating a sense of community and an appealing environment provide a special place in which to learn, live and work; one of Vision Ohio's guiding principles.
David Urano is senior media producer with University Communications and Marketing.