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Posted on Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

Ann Arbor book club celebrates 18 years of meeting at Nicola's Books

By Lisa Carolin

The answers to what keeps a book club compelling and meaningful lies with its membership. Just ask those women who have been attending the In Good Company book club, which has been meeting for 18 years.


Nicola Rooney, right, waits on a customer at her Nicola's Books in this 2008 photo.

File photo |

The venue has always been Nicola's Books, 2513 Jackson Ave., at the Westgate Shopping Center in Ann Arbor, and Saturday afternoon, In Good Company members are thanking and recognizing owner Nicola Rooney with a brief ceremony before their meeting.

"Nicola has been very supportive of the book club throughout the years," said longtime member Veleria Banks. "If it weren't for her vision, I never would have met such a diverse group."

The admiration is mutual.

"This book club is one of our best attended, most vibrant, active and enthusiastic book clubs that we've ever had," said Rooney. "They are absolutely self-sustaining. We just provide the space."

"The book club became an intellectual, support clearinghouse for individuals in this community." said Michelle James-Mann, a member of In Good Company since 1998.

James-Mann says that the group focuses on African American books, but the membership is open to everyone no matter their ethnic identity or their gender. Currently there is one male member.

Lisa Lewis, who has belonged to the book club since its inception, sees the importance of offering an Afro-centric theme.

"It keeps us connected to our past, future, present and offers hopes for our tomorrows and that of our next generations," said Lewis.

"Our books have the lives and communities of African American people as the backdrop, and that and the fact that in many instances the characters are African American, makes the books easier for me to relate to," said Leslie Hollingsworth, who joined the club in 1996 soon after moving to Ann Arbor.

"There are so many awesome African American authors, and so many get lost in the shuffle that as a group we can find the hidden gems," said member Ingrid Peterson.

Peterson cites local authors including Beverly Jenkins and Heather Neff, who have even visited the book club.

The club reads a variety of genres. Last month's book was The New Jim Crow, a nonfiction book by Michelle Alexander.

"it's helpful to be able to discuss the issues with other African-American people," said Hollingsworth. "Reading the book then discussing it and receiving the input of other members had a major influence on me and on my subsequent community action efforts."

Book club member Frances Spackey appreciates the friendships she has made during her years in the club.

"This is a group of strong, smart, worldly members, and I have learned so much from the lively discussions," said Spackey.

"We have traveled together, celebrated birthdays, children's graduations, and weddings together, and we have mourned the loss of loved ones," said member Susan Baskett.

In Good Company members also do community service together such as school supplies drives for SOS Community Services, throwing a baby shower at the Corner Health Center for young mothers, and volunteering at Food Gatherers.

Baskett says that one of the conveniences of meeting at Nicola's is that no one person has to worry about cleaning their homes or preparing snacks. The format is up to whoever is facilitating that month.

"I joke that no matter what we read, we end up talking about sex, men and menopause!" said Baskett.

"When you arrive in one of our lively book discussions, you know that you are 'in good company,' " said James-Mann.

In Good Company meets the first Saturday of every month at 4 p.m. by the fireplace in Nicola's Books and welcomes new members.

Lisa Carolin is a freelance reporter. Reach the news desk at



Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

I love this store, could spend an obscene amount of $$$ therein(if I had it, sadly, I don't). Nicola, you rock!!!!


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

I belong to another local book club; can't say enough good things about Nicola and her store. (And I swear she reads every book that comes in.)

Lizzy Alfs

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

How cool. There are so many neat things happening in Ann Arbor that I don't even know about. Keep it up, In Good Company!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

Wonderful article and yes, indeed, Nicola's Bookstore is one of a kind, love it and will continue to support it. To the club members best wishes on your continued success not only with the club and volunteer projects but in life in general.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

Sounds more like they are "A A sisterhood" to me. I always wondered what a large congress of intellectual women might all be wispering and laughing about. Wait 'til Lansing hears about this...


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

Sad? So sorry. Please explain the specific grievance. Thought this article was about a close-knit group of intelligent women gathering for more than just book talk. "We have traveled together, celebrated birthdays, children's graduations, and weddings together, and we have mourned the loss of loved ones," said member Susan Baskett. Immediately reminded me of "The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood" , a popular novel (as in what a book club might read) detailing the complex relationships among women (not that it has anything to do with this). Turned into popular movie. The A A Sisterhood is tongue-in-cheek, a form of humor. "I joke that no matter what we read, we end up talking about sex, men and menopause!" said Baskett. Perhaps those topics are not what a group of intelligent women really discuss when men are absent (I am a man in case you didn't figure that one out). Assuming women do talk the whole spectrum of issues affecting them when in private (maybe even wispering and laughing) , then the well-known GOP war against women (also in Lansing) might be concerned that fremale book clubs around the country could be undermining their puritanical command and control over their "sex" related issues. It would not be a stretch that some "Think Tank" would subsequently promote a countering legislation like a "use tax" on shared books and discussion (impacting libraries and book clubs) for copyright "protection:" purposes. That is how it works today. And that to me is what is "sad". Obviously not everyone agrees. Oh well...Stupid man.