I remember sneaking out of the house when I was a kid to hide under the orange tree in the backyard and read a book. Fiction always. Often mysteries, with a notebook on hand to track the clues. From my sun-dappled hiding spot in suburban Southern California, I could enter other worlds, live other lives. Reading has continued to be a grounding force for me and a way to connect with others.
At the beginning of the year, I started a book club that meets monthly. After Marilynne Robinson came to town, we talked Housekeeping around an overly large picnic table late into the night. We’ve discussed Haruki Murakami, Nicole Krauss, Breece DJ Pancake—what a name!—and I look forward to meeting every month. To the stories we read and the stories we share.
When I joined CNE as Membership Manager in May, I was delighted to find that once a month at our Monday team meeting, we each share an article relevant to our work and the way we approach it—our “Big Read.” I remember that first meeting when Mary Davis Hamlin shared “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace. I rarely reread, but I’ve returned to Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again so many times over the years that the pages are torn, coffee-stained, deeply loved. That Monday served as a way to connect as new staff members and to think about the ways in which our personal and work lives inform each other. “Maintain humor and perspective” is one of our six staff values and Wallace’s essays help do that for me.
And then there’s the “Big Big Read”—CNE’s book club. For a deeper dive into how we can do good work better, we vote on a book to discuss at our summer staff retreat. As Zoe Krylova shared in her post about the retreat, we talked about Daniel Pink’s Drive—about autonomy, flow, mastery and what motivates us. After discussing Drive, we each shared the title of a book that has influenced us and why. (Mine, The Maytrees by Annie Dillard). I looked forward to this, to the Monday “Big Read,” the way I look forward to my monthly book club. As E.M. Forster wrote in Howard’s End: “Only connect.”
P.S. A good story is as important for a nonprofit as it is for a lively book club discussion. We have lots of resources on how stories can inspire your audience, attract donors, and advance your mission.
The discussion of Drive continues this fall in Warrenton at the PATH Resource Center—a partnership between CNE and the PATH Foundation. Please contact Kadi Davis if you are part of a nonprofit organization in Fauquier, Rappahannock, or northern Culpeper county and are interested in participating.