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LET'S TALK BOOKS 

Since then the group I'm honored to have joined has read The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, and the Harper Lee classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. We're a small, diverse gathering that meets once a month to enjoy a spirited discussion, share personal experiences, and of course, eat well.

While the campaign continues for bookstores to be more evenly distributed throughout the city, San Antonio does offer a variety of reading discussions for just about every taste.

Into mysteries? So is Patsy Asher, owner of Remember the Alibi and leader of the mystery book store's discussion group. Asher's group is 20 members strong, but usually about a dozen participate in any given month. "Most members aren't shy; they're a very vocal group," jokes Asher. But new members shouldn't let the spirited discussion put them off. "Anyone is welcome to see what it's all about; even if they haven't read the book," she says.

Mystery may be the genre, but it encompasses popular to historical works and everything in between. Asher may choose the monthly selection, members may put suggestions in a hat, or the group may read a work by an author who will be appearing at the store. "This month we're reading Rick Riordan's The Devil Went Down to Austin, a nominee for an Anthony Award which will be announced later this month," Asher says. Past selections have included Elizabeth George's In the Presence of the Enemy, Edwin of the Iron Shoes by Marcia Muller, and Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey.

Most of the chain booksellers also have discussion groups; at Barnes & Noble's San Pedro location, one group accepting new members is the Latino fiction discussion group. There are currently about a dozen participants meeting the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. Recent selections include The Years with Laura Diaz by Carlos Fuentes, The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre, Ito Romo's El Puente, and The Nine Guardians by Rosario Castellanos.

Barnes & Noble's Seekers group, which reads fiction and nonfiction and meets twice a month, is always open to new members. "If you have a discussion group you'd like to start, we can provide the space," says Community Relations Manager Carla Silen. "The only catch is that your group be open to the public."

To access book group schedules at the chain bookstores near you, use the store locator link on the store's Web site (www.barnesandnoble.com) or (www.borders.com).

Central Library fiction maven Wendy Friedman heads up the main branch's discussion group, which reads a broad cross-section of works. Most are contemporary fiction with an occasional nonfiction, classical, or sci-fi selection. "I select books with lots of copies at the library so everyone can get a copy, including a large print or audio cassette version for visually impaired members," Friedman says.

Recent reads on Friedman's list include A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Joyce Carol Oates' We Were the Mulvaneys, and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

Several library branches have book discussion groups appealing to a variety of genres and age groups. Check the library's website (www.sanantonio.gov/library/ fiction/fic_discuss.asp) for branches, meeting times and book lists. Interested readers can join a library reading group at any time during the year.

What can you expect to gain from sharing your love of reading with others? At best, an invigorating discussion, a glimpse into other's perceptions, and an expanded reading experience. With book groups growing in numbers and popularity, readers can't help but be encouraged that the original media experience is still a viable one.

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More by Lauren Mulverhill

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