Book clubs offer fun, friendship and even catechesis

Julie Vickery believes reading is fundamental to her faith.

Nearly every month she meets others at a local “meat-and-three” Southern eatery for Catholic book club meetings.

Vickery, who attends St. Joseph Church in Columbia, started the group about six years ago because she was “desperate for Catholic company, for fellow Catholics to talk to,” she said.

As a lifelong bookworm, Vickery thought a book club might provide the outlet she was seeking.

The group went through a few bumps in the road, but now between 12 and 15 people attend. Members include married couples, singles, widows and retirees. They take turns selecting books, and have read works on the Shroud of Turin, Biblical prophecy and history, plus writings by Father Benedict Groeschel, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Their current selection is “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” by Vinny Flynn.

“So many people are so hungry for what the Church teaches, and a book club is a great way to share it,” Vickery said. “We’ve a very intellectual Church, and reading helps us understand that.”

Jo Killoy of Columbia said a book club combines fun with serious catechesis.

“I’m a lifelong Catholic. I attended Catholic schools, and I taught at them, but I’ve realized there is still so much I don’t know,” she said. “You never get too old to learn about our complex and complicated faith.”

Marie Marquardt, who attends Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant, attends a weekly women’s book club at Pauline Books and Media in downtown Charleston.

Together, they’ve read everything from papal encyclicals and Catholic fiction to an extensive study on Paul’s letters.

“It allows us to learn about our faith, but also to come together as women to share our own individual experiences,” she said. “That really widens each person’s perspective on her own faith.”

Want to start your own book club? Vickery offered some basic suggestions:

• Be considerate of different schedules. Look at times that will be convenient for couples, working people, retirees, etc. Try not to schedule meetings on very busy parish nights.

• Decide how often you will meet. Monthly meetings work best because they give busy people time to read, although meetings more or less often may work for your club.

• Decide what size group you want. Eight to 12 people is generally considered a good size.

• Be aware of different personalities. Try to accommodate both introverts and extroverts.

• Be considerate of different opinions. Realize not everyone likes the same type of book and be willing to listen to others. Don’t allow meetings to turn into arguments over politics or specific aspects of Church history or doctrine.

• Offer varied reading selections if possible. A mix of fiction, nonfiction, history, and spiritual writings works well. Rotate who makes the selection so each member has a chance to choose.

Vickery hopes more Catholics will consider forming book clubs and welcomes questions. Email her at Or contact your parish or local Catholic bookstore to find out if they have a club.

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