MY ART STORY by

Roberta Koscielski

Peoria
Illinois

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Group of older adults standing behind a long table displaying a wide range of books

Members of Peoria (IL) Public Library's Biography and Nonfiction Book Club. Photo by Roberta Koscielski

Peoria (Illinois) Public Library’s Biography and Nonfiction Book Club was started as a result of a connection made at a collaborative program for The Big Read. In 2009, during a program related to our community reading of The Maltese Falcon, Carol May, a retired administrator from Illinois Central College and current volunteer with Bradley University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute approached me. She asked me whether Peoria Public Library had ever considered offering a biography or nonfiction book club. I responded that if she would be willing to work with me on it, we could start one!

Our members have just selected the books for our 7th year of this monthly book discussion group. A few of our 2015 reading selections were: Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970 by Lynne Olson, Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City by Kathryn Edin, and German Boy: A Child in War by Wolfgang Samuel. We meet the second Sunday of each month at Peoria Public Library’s new North Branch.

Here are some comments from a few of our regular members…

Bob: Our Biography and Non Fiction Book Club couldn’t have come along at a more opportune time in my life. I had finally retired and could relax and read, which I did voraciously. I can’t describe the enjoyment I have derived from reading our seventy or so selections over the years. My twilight years have been richer and fuller thanks to Roberta and the Peoria Public Library.

Paul: What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Our group, made up mostly of retired teachers, is like a return to a college classroom minus the stress of grades or assignments. The discussions are timely, frank, and lively. The once a year duty of leading the discussion on the book you have selected is as daunting as every college student has experienced.

Rich: When I moved to Peoria, I was pleased to see a lot of book clubs as I’ve always enjoyed discussing what I’ve read with others. I also thought it would be a fun way to meet people in my new community. The first book club I visited had a decidedly feminine slant to the books they had selected to read. When I tried the Biography and Nonfiction Club, I found an appealing reading list and more men in attendance than in other clubs that I visited. I’ve enjoyed this club for three years.

Catriona: I enjoy book club because I get to read books that I may never have chosen on my own. The best part comes when we discuss the books and share insights and observations that can put a whole new slant on the selected book. Sharing a book that means something to you with others really adds to your enjoyment of it.

Carol: Since my reading tastes are primarily biography and non-fiction, this group gives me an opportunity to discuss those genres with others. And I also have had the chance to read some books in both genres that I wouldn’t have selected on my own.

Marge: I cannot begin to explain how much I have learned since we began the Nonfiction group. My interests in history, current events, biographies, etc. have greatly expanded. Although I think we have been saturated with war topics, there always seems to be a new story or twist so I have enjoyed all. I have also made new friends as a result of the group and enjoy everyone’s point of view. Thanks for your continued support!

Happy Birthday, National Endowment for the Arts, and thank you for helping organizations across the United States make connections among people who love to read and learn!