Dorothy Good Book Club turns 40

Forty years ago, two young moms who’d retired from careers as librarians partnered with fifteen friends from their Moss Haven neighborhood to form a book club. This was long before the popular book clubs of today — Jenna Bush Hager was just a toddler in 1983 when the ladies got started, and Reese Witherspoon was entering the first grade.

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The women were led by retired librarians Meg Henderson and Jeanetta Sanders, who moved to Dallas after their husbands finished law school at the University of Texas. Betsy Moon, another founding member, grew up in a small town in Louisiana where there wasn’t much to do during the summer except head to the public library and pick out stacks of books to take home.

Over the years, a few members drifted in and out of the group as they went back to work, developed other interests or moved away. Last week, they celebrated their 40th anniversary with a $400 donation to the Forest Green Library.

“I have truly made lifelong forever friends through the years from this book club,” said Henderson. “I look forward each month to a great discussion, sometimes on books I absolutely love and others not so much. I read Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Our discussion was so enriching, I realized that there were many things I didn’t focus on, and now I think I will have to read it again.”

“Reading a book with friends adds so much depth to the stories and histories and poetry we have read,” agreed Moon. “With a cup of coffee and fruit salad and a scone, we gather and meet old friends and new ones. In the beginning, the pre-book discussion was about our children and schools and greeting each other. Now, it is children, travel and how was your knee surgery. We are a family of readers, for sure, even though the group changes because of new people and people moving away.”

Sanders has since moved to Austin, and Kay Anderson, another member, has moved to Salado, but each tries to get back at least 3 or 4 times per year to join in group discussions.

“So many times I read a book and have a set opinion about what was important, only to find out in the book club discussions that others have entirely different viewpoints,” Sanders said. “This causes me to re-examine my point of view. Many times books are suggested that I would have never picked up on my own and find that they become some of my all-time favorites.”

The group juggles responsibilities, with one member hosting in their home each time and one reviewing the book. The reviewer’s presentation includes background information about the author and the historical period, reviews by professional critics and questions from the author. Once per year they invite husbands to join, and often a husband will review the book on that occasion.

Member Joan Parma’s mother was a librarian who shared her love of books, and Parma passed that love of reading on to her own children. They all grew up to become library volunteers.

“Libraries are essential to our world, as they contain so much,” she said. “There’s nothing better than holding a book in your hands and escaping from the cares of the world. What would we do if we couldn’t read?”

Suzette Buehrle met Henderson and Sanders at a neighborhood babysitting co-op in the early 1980s, and they invited her to join their new book club in its first year. She appreciated the group’s hearty welcome and their thought-provoking reading choices, but she soon had to rejoin the work world. She regretted leaving the club and was delighted when they added one evening meeting per year in the 1990s so that she could participate again. When she retired, they encouraged her to rejoin.

“I have learned so much thanks to members who have a wide range of reading interests, exceptionally diverse knowledge and research into authors and book reviews. Reading is a gift and true pleasure, but what fun it is to share this with others in a non-critical group interested in sharing personal experiences and exchanging ideas.”

Buehrle and fellow members were delighted to make a donation to the new Forest Green Library in recognition of the impact books have made in their lives.

“Libraries and librarians are an amazing source of information and a place of community gatherings,” Buehrle said. “I grew up in a town with few amenities, but we had a library and I practically lived there. Libraries disseminate not only books and research material, but they also provide various learning opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. From story times for our youngest citizens, ESL for folks needing to learn English, informational meetings (e.g., government, investing, tax help), meeting authors, to fun gatherings for crafts and games — the library offers something for everyone.”

Over the years, the group has hosted authors including Jane Roberts Wood (Train from Estelline, Roseborough), Vivian Castleberry (Sarah, the Bridge Builder), Skip Hollandsworth (Midnight Assassin) and Rafi Kohan (The Arena). They’ve attended multiple Richardson Reads One Book discussions and taken literary trips, including visits to Austin to discuss Lyndon Johnson, to Archer City to discuss Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, to Jefferson to discuss Elithe Kirkland’s Love is a Wild Assault, to Jackson, Mississippi to discuss Eudora Welty and to Asheville, North Carolina to discuss Denise Kleanan’s The Last Castle.

The group changed their name to the Dorothy Good Book Club in 1994 in memory of founding member Dorothy Good, a Richardson resident and Brookhaven College teacher. She was killed in a tragic car accident when an airborne taxi sailed off LBJ Freeway and onto the top of her car.

You may donate to Friends of the Dallas Public Library in honor of the Dorothy Good Book Club online here or by mailing a check to: Gifts Assistant, Dallas Public Library, 1515 Young, Dallas TX 75201. Please write: IHO Dorothy Good Book Club on the memo line.

Jeanetta Sanders and Meg Henderson toast the Dorothy Good Book Club.

Kay Anderson, Betsy Moon and Suzette Buehrle.