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Mixing reading with socializing and other activities is what makes Sonoma County's book clubs so attractive

  • on Saturday, 10 6, 2012. The Santa Rosa Walking Book Club of from left front, Julie Bickford, Lisa Nussdorfer, Jaqui Anthony and background from left, Christen Thompson, Michele Davis, Marlene Magaraci and Lynea Seiberlich walk and talk about recent book the group read Saturday Oct. 6, 2012 at Howarth Park in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Remember the old stereotype of the solitary bookworm, with no friends and nowhere to go? You can forget that image now. It's out of date.

Reading may seem like a lonely pastime, but for the avid readers who belong to one of Sonoma County's hundreds of book clubs, reading leads to a lively social life.

"The main reason to join a book club is the discussion," said Julie Bickford of Sonoma. "There's a type of person who joins a book club. They're interested in exploring new thoughts."

The 50-year-old retired computer company manager currently belongs to three book clubs, including the relatively new and rather unusual Santa Rosa Walking Book Club.

"We meet at different places, usually a restaurant, and then we walk around Spring Lake and talk about the book," Bickford said.

Last weekend, a dozen or so members of the club strolled while discussing "Catching Fire," the second book in Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" series.

"I've had people say, 'I really like the fact that we actually talk about the books,' " Bickford said. "What happens with some of the book clubs, like some of the ones that meet in bars, is they don't ever talk about the books."

The cleverly named Eat, Drink and Be Literary Book Club in Petaluma follows a more conventional format, with members taking turns hosting the meetings at their homes. But they do spend some extra effort on the menu for each event.

"Sometimes we make the food fit the theme," said Jenny Belforte, one of the club's leaders. "If the book is about Cajun country, we might do jambalaya."

Belforte, 42, an online researcher for health agencies, hospitals and universities, has two sons in grade school, and enjoys meeting with other women who have children the same age.

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