A Guide to Book Groups at the Jefferson Market Library

By Corinne Neary

2nd Floor Reading Room. Photo by Sherry Felix.

The Village is a neighborhood of readers and so it probably comes as no surprise that book discussions are a staple of programming at the Jefferson Market Library. But if you haven’t checked out our offerings lately, you might be excited to see how many we have going on, both in-person and online!

Being able to return to in-person programs, when we reopened last year, was a long-awaited thrill. There is something about sitting together with other readers and diving into a text that thrills a librarian. And since I’ve continued doing discussions online since 2020, I’ve made friends with readers from the Netherlands, Texas, France, New Orleans and more.

The longest running book group at our library is led by our longest serving librarian, library manager Frank Collerius. He’s been helming a discussion for 30 years! That’s a lifetime of talking about literature and he’s still going strong the last Thursday of every month. August’s title, set in southern Italy in the 1980s, is Ferocity (La Ferocia) by Italian novelist Nicola Lagioia, winner of the Strega Prize in 2015.

Our librarian Alyona Glushchenkova is the newest addition to the branch and she’s been running her online group, the Avant Garde Book Club, since 2020. This is the group for you if you like to read outside the box, as it focuses on short stories, plays and text extracts by absurd, modernist, surrealist and existential authors. They have recently read pieces by Leonora Carrington, Samuel Beckett, Gertrude Stein, Witold Gombrowicz, Nikolai Gogol and Daniil Kharms, to name a few. The Avant Garde meetings are every other Thursday evening.

If poetry is your thing, I lead in-person discussions, alternating months on Wednesday afternoons. We’ll be meeting August 16 to discuss Silvia Plath’s Ariel which was first released in 1965, two years after Plath’s death. In past months, we’ve read collections by Ranier Maria Rilke, Frank O’Hara, Mary Oliver and Zeina Hasham Beck. These have been some of my favorite conversations because the way we interpret poetry is so individual. Reading things in a group can illuminate different interpretations.

For those who have a fear of commitment, or maybe a lack of time, I have a few different options. Every Monday at 1 pm, I have an online short story discussion. As this group has been meeting weekly for three years, the authors we’ve gone through are too many to list. We have a lot of laughs and it gets the week started on a good note. In person on Wednesday afternoons in alternating months, I hold a novella discussion, focused on books under 200 pages. Our next meeting will be September 13, with Georges Simenon’s Three Bedrooms in Manhattan.

And finally, for those who like to read closely, and at a slower pace, I have an online group on Fridays at 1 pm in which we read books broken up over several meetings. This is a wonderful way to read longer and more difficult texts. We’ve handled many of Nabokov’s complex works, as well as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Iris Murdoch and Herman Melville. In fact, it took us eight meetings to get through Moby Dick!

As always, the best way to get more details about these programs is to check out our website, as well as the flyers in our lobby. Happy reading!