OVERTON - About once a month, a loose-knit group of bookworms holds a get-together in Overton to rehash the drama of their latest page-turning adventure.

Sometimes the chatter is serious, sometimes not.

But everyone seems to leave the meeting a little wiser to the ways of the world, and sometimes each other.

So goes the driving force behind "Book Talk," an informal roundtable discussion held monthly at McMillan Memorial Library, part of the Rusk County Library System.

For anyone who hasn't paid a visit to Overton's new 11,838 square-foot library, it's the go-to place for avid page-turners.

The expansive facility features walls of books and countless places to curl up and rediscover virtual entertainment that doesn't need a battery charge.

Not a bad feat for a town of about 2,539 people.

Book Talk attracts not only people who live in the town, but outlying areas as well, such as Kilgore, Liberty City and surrounding areas.

What brings them together, it seems, is the thrill of the type.

"It's inspiring that people still do like to read," Branch Manager Jann Smith said. "We urge people to get a library card and see what's available. This is truly a blessing for the community, and we have a tremendous amount of local support."

Becoming a member of the library is free, by the way, as is the knowledge gained during the visit.

"We try to keep up with things and offer programming the community wants," said Mrs. Smith, explaining the libraries that fail to keep up with the times risk failure.

Book Talk is one of those programs that draw people into the library.

It started about 13 years ago as a way to connect and talk about books, and the popularity boomed.

"Originally, it was bring your lunch and we'll brown bag it," said Colleen Randel, a retired educator who serves as "Friends of the Library" vice president. "It has evolved and continues every single month … it's very entertaining."

Today's Book Talks feature simple refreshments and an endless variety of speakers and topics.

Some future programs include remarks from crafter Jennifer Freeman on Dec. 15; pianist Ann Heiligman-Saslav on Jan. 19; and author Caleb Pirtle III on Feb. 16.

The library also offers a weekly "Baby and Me" class, summer youth reading programs, Friends of the Library, a quilting class and adult programming.

With so much emphasis on reading, one has to wonder the obvious.

Do the reading experts prefer paper or pretend?

"I love books, real books," Mrs. Smith said, describing herself as a lifelong bookworm. "I was the one always in trouble at bedtime. I was the kid with the flashlight under the covers, reading."

She races through about two or three selections a month; Mrs. Randel, three or four at a time.

The women just chuckle and roll their eyes when asked about the size of their personal book collections.

In a recent gathering, avid reader Dee Diedering gave an overview of her reading of Go Set a Watchman, written by Harper Lee.

For the unfamiliar, Ms. Lee is the author behind the beloved novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

The author's latest book, actually her first and inspiration for Mockingbird, is vastly different than the story everyone dissected and discussed in high school English class.

Atticus Finch is not portrayed in the new book as the community's compass of morality, but rather a man caught up in the racist attitudes of the times.

Ms. Diedering is a fan of Mockingbird, but it's a stretch to say she feels the same about Watchman, at least on an emotional level.

At Book Talk, she wasn't hesitant to speak her mind.

"You set people on a pedestal and you forget they have clay feet," she said. "It was disappointing because of Atticus. I really enjoyed reading it and I'm glad I read it. … I was just disappointed with him."

 

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