Shelf Life: Huntington Book Club Approaches 20-Year Milestone

Huntington offers a wide range of library and business-sponsored book groups, and there are countless discussion groups that locals put together on their own. One enduring local book club is just shy of its 20-year milestone.

“Some years ago we started referring to ourselves as the WBBC,” founding member Jennifer Cusumano said. “World’s Best Book Club. It kind of stuck, so that’s how we like to think of ourselves.”

The group began in the back room of a bookseller in Northport. “There were only seven or eight original members who were frequent customers of the store,” Cusumano said. “When the store moved, the group decided to stay together and simply meet at each other’s houses.”

WBBC first followed a traditional path: a hosting member chose a book, and other members would read it in preparation for an upcoming discussion. Sometimes the gatherings offered wine and cheese. But these evenings soon evolved, and now include additional members and full-on dinners. When possible, the meals’ menus are paired with a book theme. “We’ve had elaborate Tuscan tables, high tea, and even a ballpark-themed menu,” Cusumano said.

After catching up and enjoying their feast; the members take to discussing their reading. “We rarely have to use the book club questions at the back of some books,” Cusumano said. “We all have so much to add to the conversation.”

The group now maintains 12 members, and their connection extends beyond the page. “We have shared in each other’s joys and sorrows over the years,” Cusumano said. “I’m really lucky because the 12 of us are all highly intelligent, involved, interesting, and accomplished women. I’m proud to know them and call them friends, and my life is so much richer for having them in it.”

Cusumano is also grateful for the wide range of books she read through the group. “The club has widened my appreciation for different genres and subjects,” she said. “I’ve read books with that I ordinarily never would have chosen for myself.” While her list of book club favorites is long, Cusumano mentioned All the Light We Cannot SeeBel CantoEast of EdenThe Night Circusand The Red Tent as a few standouts.

Cusumano found support from WBBC’s members in writing a book of her own. In 2011, she published a novel, Angels Around Her. “I was too modest to suggest we read it in book club. I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable discussing the book in front of me,” Cusumano said. “But several members privately let me know they read it and enjoyed it, which was just lovely. I’m grateful for their support.”

More information about Jennifer Cusumano and her novel can be found on her website.

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