‘We’ve been through it all’: Snowmass Book Club celebrates 25 years together
Marriage, the births and lives of children and grandchildren, divorce, death, retirement, bi-coastal moves and cancer.
Since the inception of the Snowmass Village Book Club more than a quarter century ago, the women of the longstanding local group have shared much more than fiction and great reads.
“We’ve been through, gosh, a lot,” Susan Cottle, one of the two founding members, said at the club’s latest meeting Thursday night. “Births and deaths and grandchildren — we’ve been through it all.”
“Graduations, weddings,” added Nathalie Crick, another member.
September marked the 25th anniversary of the Snowmass book club, which gathers at a member’s home every month.
The tight-knit group’s most recent assembly took place at the home of Ci Beasley, also an original member of the club.
“We can’t hardly stand going more than a month without seeing each other,” Beasley quipped from her kitchen as she added a few finishing touches to dinner. “There’s never a lull in the conversation, as you can imagine.”
Beasley’s remark became fact as soon as the women began trickling into her living room. Hugs, kisses and “how are the girls?” accompanied homemade dishes and bottles of wine.
Along with the designated monthly read, the members must bring an item — salad, appetizers, wine or dessert — to each gathering, while the host prepares dinner.
Duties are decided and divvied at the previous meeting. The book choices, however, are often determined more than a month prior.
All told, the book club recipe is simple: Wine, appetizers and a thorough catch-up on the couches is followed by a lively literary debrief and dinner pairing.
If the book du jour is juicy enough, talk seems to spill into dessert.
Scottish writer Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine,” stirred an impassioned conversation that lasted until the almond cake.
With an average of 350 pages per book and about 11 books annually — the ladies often skip the read around the holidays, but still get together for a little festive imbibing, Beasley explained — over the span of 25 years, the women have turned nearly 100,000 pages together.
Not to mention, countless life chapters, memories and milestones, including four different bouts of cancer amongst the eight-person group.
Aside from the conversation and the method for selecting books, little about the club has changed since it began, said Cottle, who co-founded the group with Lynnette Conner in 1993.
While living next door to Conner at Snowmass’ Fairway Three Townhomes at that time, Cottle recalled, “deciding that we needed to get the heck away from babies and husbands.”
She called Virginia Valentine of Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store and asked how one starts a book club.
A New York Times archive from 1999 reveals that Valentine at one point advised nearly 400 reading groups in Colorado.
Valentine was generous with her time, Cottle said, and the two “had a lovely, long conversation about her suggestions and experiences with beginning a successful book club.”
One piece of advice from Valentine was to cap the club at eight members, for the sake of inclusive conversation and comfortably surrounding a dinner table.
More than two and a half decades later, the Snowmass Village chapter still honors many of Valentine’s original rules.
“It’s more than a book group,” Cottle said. “It’s a friendship group. And we read books.”