Topsham library book group seeks a few good men

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TOPSHAM — Jerry Davis loves books, and book discussion groups.

He dove right into discussion groups eight years ago when he moved to town and joined the Topsham Public Library. But Davis was disappointed to find a dearth of other men participating.

“I went up to one of the gals who was in charge, and I said, ‘why aren’t there more men here?,'” Davis recalled. “And she said, ‘I don’t know; maybe it’s an ego thing, maybe they feel that they can’t be part of a women’s group.'”

“And I’m thinking, ‘that’s no good,'” Davis said.

With help from Emma Gibbon, the library’s adult services librarian, all that changed five years ago.

The simply, but aptly, named Men’s Book Group meets the third Saturday of each month, September through May, at the 25 Foreside Road library. It has a core of about 15 people, of which about a third or half will show up at a given meeting. And women are welcome, too.

Although the library’s several book groups tend to be composed mostly of women, “they’re not designed that way; it’s just kind of how it seems to happen,” Gibbon said Dec. 20 in an interview alongside Davis. “There’s some criticism (that) the books are aimed toward women, but I don’t think that’s necessarily (the case). It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.”

Regardless, Davis and Gibbon felt the best course of action was to start a whole new group, open to anyone at no charge.

“We just put it together, and we advertised for men, and it works great,” said Davis, who reads between 50-75 books annually. “… We’re always getting new people, so there’s always fresh blood.”

“He’s the powerhouse behind (the group), but he won’t say it; he’ll just keep batting it over to me,” Gibbon said with a smile.

The group covers a new book each month and decides the next itinerary of texts on a quarterly basis.

Those gathered at Dec. 20’s one-hour meeting were tackling Jessica Bruder’s “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.” The book follows older people who still feel the ill effects of the Great Recession, forced to travel via RVs between short-term jobs in order to make ends meet.

Thanks to Davis’ networking, the group has hosted many of the authors behind the books it covers, Gibbon said. Among them is Amy Bass, who wrote “One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town” about multi-generational Mainers and Somali refugees in Lewiston who bonded over soccer.

The books the men choose, often from a list of suggestions supplied by Gibbon, tend to be nonfiction, with a particular focus on World War II. The library supplies them.

“Points North,” by Howard Frank Mosher, is the group’s read for the 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, gathering. People from any town are welcome to swing by, whether they’ve read the book or not, and members can attend whenever the book interests them.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Jerry Davis, left, and Emma Gibbon, adult services librarian, run a book group for men at Topsham Public Library.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.