Salonissima Book Group supports LCNV!

May 13, 2013 at 10:10 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Salonissima Book Group supports LCNV!

book group cake

In 2003, my book group, Salonissima, read Nickeled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by investigative journalist Barbara Ehrenreich—who lived and worked as an unskilled worker at below-poverty wages for over a year. Our discussion led to the idea of donating as a group annually to help others.  For several years, we assisted one young woman studying at George Mason University whose family could not help financially. In 2012, we wanted to support a group that supports reading.  Since I was tutoring a student at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, LCNV was an easy choice!

LCNV reached out to me recently to learn more about Salonissima–now 25-years old. One question:  how did we come to name ourselves Salonissima?

In 1987—before the popularity of book groups—several friends who work in development started a monthly book discussion group. The first book selected was Erica Jong’s Serenissima, which was very forgettable, except for the name. Later, when email and online meeting notifications became more common, we formed a Yahoo group listserv to communicate with each other. We needed a name and merged our first book’s title with Salon—to arrive at Salonissima. Salon is a good description of the wide-ranging discussions we enjoy each month in members’ homes; salon used to be a common term to describe a gathering at the home of an inspiring host to enjoy one another’s company and to learn through conversation.

Two of the original members continue to participate; one moved away for several years and is now back in the D.C. area. Approximately 18 members are active and 30 have participated over the years.  We observed our 25th anniversary in 2012.

Since 1987, the group has selected and read at least 300 books—fiction, non-fiction, short-stories, and some poetry.

We evolved from a weeknight meeting with snacks to a Sunday evening with dinner.  Typically, the hostess provides a main dish and members fill in with sides, dessert, and wine.All members seem to have loved reading since childhood. This shared love of books has fostered a community for many book group members.  We’ve shared births, deaths, divorces, marriages, hip replacements, job losses, marital infidelity, book publishing, cancer, court cases, public acclamation, graduations, and more.  Thanks to the listserv, it’s easy to remind members of monthly meetings as well as mobilize in a crisis or for a celebration.

We can recommend a very efficient book selection process. Members bring up to two recommendations they have read (and can vouch for) at a January meeting and we vote until we get 10 books; we can now do this in about 90 minutes. Selected books are assigned a month/date; members volunteer their homes to host the meetings; the person who recommended the book leads or kicks off the discussion. Reading a book is not mandatory for attendance.  The discussion often entices reading.

salonissima book club

Margaret McBride, Salonissima Book Group Member and LCNV Volunteer
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042


A note from LCNV: Thank you to the Salonissima Book Group for its generous donations to LCNV, totaling over $500! This amount will support a mother and her two children through a 12-week Family Learning class, which includes professional English instruction and books to take home that will form the base for their at-home library collection.

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