Books — they move mountains, they scale walls, they open doors, they make time crawl; they free minds, they give flight, they order worlds, they usher in night; they travel far, they shine bright, they give purpose, they bring new life. Books have the power to take people where they’ve never been, to see places they’ve never seen, to do things they’ve never done so they can experience a life they’ve never known.
Perhaps no one knows better the ways in which books enrich life than Katherine Schultz and Gretchen Gillen, founders and facilitators of Reading to Go.
Reading to Go started approximately 15 years ago in 2008, when Schultz and Gillen, longtime friends who had always participated in book clubs together, decided to launch a new adventure. This new journey into the world of words is a “nice feature we offer for people at Warwick Forest, the Chesapeake and the Lifelong Learning Society of Christopher Newport University,” says Schultz.
Every month, the groups bring prospective book titles to the table, they discuss them as a group and vote on them. “Sometimes, we read the same book, but not always,” says Schultz. “Each group has its own personality.” Some recent book choices include Shelby van Pelt’s Remarkably Bright Creatures, James L. Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer and Geraldine Brook’s Horse.
Because of the vast diversity of the respective groups, “it’s tricky to satisfy everybody every month,” says Schultz. “But they all, as a group, learn to accept everyone’s opinion. Not all will like the books chosen but having people who like the books, along with those who don’t, makes for good conversation. They’re grateful to be together, out of their cottages, apartments and rooms, doing something other than talking about food, weather and aches and pain. They even come if they haven’t read the book.”
There are even folks who have vision problems who attend the group and others will take the initiative to read to them. “When we started doing this,” says Gillen, “we thought we’re going to offer something to the community and do something nice for these people. It didn’t take long to realize we were getting a lot out of this — it’s quite rewarding. They’ve led interesting lives and we find out things we didn’t know. Once we were reading about something in Hampton and a woman remembered water skiing with Neil Armstrong, back in the day. We learn so much from these people as they share their life experiences with us.”
As former English majors at the same college, Gillen and Schultz say they have come full circle. In fact, the author of The Last Cattle Drive, Robert Day, who was invited to share at a book club gathering, was one of Gillen’s college professors.
Both Schultz and Gillen expressed the difficulty of naming favorite authors/books. As Schultz put it, “That’s like asking who’s your favorite child? Tricky!” But some memorable ones for her include Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Still Alice by Lisa Genova and The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard; while Gillen says she enjoys books by Geraldine Brooks, Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds and Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck.
When they’re not attending book club events, the two facilitators stay busy with other adventures — Gillen enjoys time with her two young granddaughters and is active at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk and Schultz enjoys traveling and, among other things, “sitting around listening to Gretchen’s busy life.”
In a world of words, adventure is commonplace and, as Dr. Seuss puts it, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go….” So, open a book, step inside and let the journey begin.
TO THE POINT:
Reading to Go
Contacts: Katherine Schultz, 757-876-0816; Gretchen Gillen, 757-897-5235