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Area Readers Fall for Books

Avid readers share love of reading through area book clubs.

Although Troy Ketch teaches a senior seminar of Advanced Placement English at Oakton High School, he still finds time to volunteer to coordinate a reading group for adolescent boys at Kings Park Library in Burke. The book discussion group, Calling All Guys, attracts adolescent boys from all across the teenage social spectrum, athletes and non-athletes alike.

"In the sixth, seven and eighth grade, the kids are still readers. They're excited by reading," Ketch said.

Ketch's book club is just one of many area book clubs catering to readers young and old, fiction and non-fiction lovers. Area libraries, local bookstores and social organizations like schools or the Jaycees offer the discussion groups, which can meet monthly or whenever the members decide to meet. Whether the book club member is a meeting regular or only comes to discuss specific works, they're all united by their love of reading.

"I think there's a social element, and then there's the intellectual element, obviously," said Mike Palmer of the Kamp Washington Borders Books & Music in Fairfax. The Kamp Washington Borders has a literature book club as well as a history book group.

Although the guidelines are often determined by the group's coordinator, book club members often decide what book to read next, while the coordinator frames the discussion with some questions. At the Fairfax City Regional Library, members have been meeting once a month for over a year to discuss both fiction and non-fiction works. Roughly seven to 10 readers participate each month.

"We try to make sure it's something everyone else in the world isn't doing," said branch manager Tina Cunningham on the book club's selections. Recent titles the group has read are "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood, "In America" by Susan Sontag, "Circle of Friends" by Maeve Binchy, "House of Sand and Fog" by Andre Dubus, "Amsterdam" by Ian McEwan and "Personal History" by Katherine Graham.

The Calling All Guys book discussion group for boys ages 11 to 16 has read mysteries, the novels "War of the Worlds" and the "Amber Spyglass," and works by Mark Twain, science fiction writer Issac Asimov and westerns writer Zane Gray, according to Ketch.

"It's a blast. I'm a high school teacher, and I teach seniors, so it's a whole different age group for me," Ketch said.

Both the Calling All Guys and the female equivalent at the Kings Park Library, Book Chat, invite members to bring a father or mother into the monthly meetings so they can discuss the books as well.

"A lot of it is the chance to do something with your child," said Julie Dasso, children services manager at the Kings Park Library and coordinator of Book Chat and the other book club for younger girls, Let's Hear It For the Girls. "It's a great opportunity to do something together."

Ketch agreed. "I get to watch fathers interact with their kids. It's great."

"Reading is a whole different way for them to relate with their kids," Ketch said.