Retired DDN journalist writes tender tribute to guys in his book club

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“The Dayton Book Guys - How a Group of Men Bonded Through Books” by J. Bradford Tillson Jr. (The Dayton Book Guys LLC, 166 pages, $24.95)

Every week many Americans partake in book club discussions. There are thousands of book clubs, most of the private ones are exclusively female. Statistics reveal that women in this country read more books than men do. They also read more fiction than men. Many men prefer to read non-fiction.

There are some all male clubs, too. There’s one in the Dayton area that is now entering a third decade of activity. A recent book by one of their members celebrates their longevity as well as the enduring bonds that have formed between the participants.

J. Bradford Tillson Jr. recently published “The Dayton Book Guys - How a Group of Men Bonded Through Books.” Long-time readers of these newspapers might recall that Tillson came to this area to work as a reporter for the Dayton Daily News in 1971. By 2003, when he retired, he had been President of Cox Ohio Publishing.

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Over the years these Dayton Book Guys have had a number of members join the group. As of the publication date of this book 25 men had taken part so far. Some members have left the club. Others died. Some of the men have moved away from our region, including the author, but have remained active in the club.

Tillson details how the original group was composed of white men, almost all somewhat liberal in their political leanings, and how over the years, the group became more racially diverse. Most of these men are what one could describe as influencers; they had achieved a lot in their lives and most of them were quite busy-carving out time for monthly book club meetings has required high levels of persistence and commitment.

They meet monthly. Members alternate in selecting books. The man who picks the book also decides where each meeting will take place. They usually met at restaurants. Some years after the club was formed they also began hosting annual retreats.

Their weekend retreats in Michigan, and in the Hocking Hills area, gave them opportunities to forge deeper connections, to discuss books of course, as well as just about anything under the sun.

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Tillson recounts how certain books opened floodgates of discourse as members expounded upon race, politics, technology, and even the occasional fiction title. True to form, these guys are reading mostly non-fiction.

At the end of the book there’s an appendix listing most of the books they have read together; It is long and impressive. Here are some random examples: “Lincoln at Gettysburg” by Gary Wills, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson, and “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” by Michael Chabon.

In 2013 this reviewer had the pleasure of sitting in on one of their meetings. That night we discussed “Standing in Another Man’s Grave” by the Scottish novelist Ian Rankin. The food was lovely. The conversation was lively. That experience gave this reviewer an appreciation of what has motivated these men to get together and to keep on doing it for all of these years.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him atvick@vickmickunas.com

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