Veterans Book Group: A Journey

The mostly blue cover features a an illustration of people gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Wall, drawn in the primitive style.

by Rohini G.

Last year we embarked on a powerful journey of connection through reading and discussion among veterans in Howard County. This journey continues in 2021. Our facilitator, David Owens, USNA Class of ‘94, shares his thoughts in a candid interview.    

David, you are a former Naval officer and an entrepreneur with your own media production company. You are also the facilitator of a Veterans Book Group (VBG) at the library. Tell us more about all these different hats that you don so effortlessly.  

I do indeed juggle a lot, but I love it! I want to be someone who makes communities better, and thus volunteering (Veterans Reading Group, etc.) makes me feel more satisfied. I’m a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and spent six years active duty stationed at Naval Station San Diego. I was also a news reporter for 15 years after leaving the service. 

Running a small business has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done, and much of the success of the company centers on human connecting and teambuilding. I learned many of those skills in the military and try to bring those abilities to the reading group as well.  

The Veterans Book Group was a first for Howard County Library System and a first for you. What prompted you to take on this role? 

First of all, I love this reading group, and I hope it continues! I wanted to be involved in the group because I love to read, and I like listening to other people’s opinions on things. This has been the best of both worlds for me! We all read the same book, yet we sometimes have different perspectives, which helps us all grow. Additionally, it is awesome to meet new people and connect with them. 

What makes a Veterans Book Group different from other book groups? 

Just by the nature of the job, military members tend to have experience working in high intense environments with diverse groups of people. I believe those experiences facilitate deeper discussions in our group. I also believe there is increased sensitivity and empathy among the members because we understand some have had life-altering experiences during their service/lives. As for the readings, we are a relaxed group that gives members plenty of time to read all the books. 

Would you like to share any special memories or experiences from last year’s VBG? 

Last year we were honored to have author Madeline Mysko (Bringing Vincent Home) join us for a session. She was so gracious, and having her talk about how the book was really a reflection of her own experiences brought a realness factor to our discussion.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Covid-19. Our group initially met in person, then held our final few meetings virtually. Howard County Library and Maryland Humanities were great at adjusting on the fly. Being able to remain connected to people brought positive energy for me, and provided a bit of normal human interaction during such a difficult time. 

I understand that participants at VBG read novels, short stories, articles, and just about every format. What was your favorite story, book or excerpt from what you read last year? 

Again, I have to give a lot of kudos to Howard County Library and Maryland Humanities because they work hard to assist the facilitators in selecting a good cross-section of books. Bringing Vincent Home was my favorite. The characters in her story were so identifiable and really hit home for me. I honestly had to remind myself on several occasions that it was actually a novel.  

You are embarking on another journey with VBG in 2021. What are your plans for this year? How are you feeling about it? 

I am really excited about the diversity of subjects in this year’s books. We will explore issues with the VA (Dead Soldier by Carmelo Rodriguez), as well as a few eras that might not get read as much (Korean War and Civil War). We are also planning to invite authors to our discussions; in fact, Carmelo Rodriguez has expressed a desire to speak with us. I’m looking forward to the journey, and I know the group is going to have a lot of great discussions and connections! 

The Veterans Book Group 2021 starts on February 2. For more information and to register, click HERE.

What next? Books for Discussion @ Book Corner

Rows of book carts fully piled with books.
Central Branch BTS

By PIyali. C.

As our doors at Howard County Library closed at the beginning of the pandemic, we understood the need of the community to stay connected virtually despite the fact that we had to stay apart physically. Many of our library sponsored book discussion groups, along with other library classes, pivoted to meet online right away. Several of our community book clubs also started meeting and discussing books online. At the start of the pandemic when the library was closed, our community book club members made use of our eBooks or eAudiobooks through Overdrive, Cloudlibrary and Hoopla for their discussions. Now, they are able to pick up books in print through the contactless pickup service.

We are lucky to be part of a community who loves to read. However, there always comes a time when members of book clubs start looking for suggestions for their next titles to discuss.

Join us on October 16 at 11 am by registering for Book Corner: Books for Discussion 2021 where some of our Adult Instructors introduce the sure-to-be-in-demand HCLS Books for Discussion 2021 list, which suggests recent adult fiction and nonfiction titles that we all want to talk about. HCLS Instructors will promote some of their favorite new “discussables.” Participants will have the opportunity to share theirs as well in our most anticipated class for book clubs or even for your own personal reads.

See you in our Corner!

Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction.