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An ‘award-winning’ chance to connect with community

Local reading clubs can be your social fix

An array of books sit atop a shelf at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., on April 27, 2023. The green figurine glows in the dark and watches over the books as he pulls his sock over his foot. // Photo by Aislinn Jones

Every library in the Whatcom County Library System has at least one book club. But did you know that the Lynden Public Library has the most in the county, with three in-person book clubs and a countywide club held over Zoom for anyone to join?

The three in-person book clubs at the Lynden Library are Tearing Through the Topics, the Simply Horror Book and Movie Society, and the Award-Winning Book Club.

Lisa Neulicht is the public services assistant at the Lynden Library and runs the Award-Winning Book Club. Neulicht’s manager created the club in 2017 and assigned her the task of running it. 

Since 2017, people have come and gone. Many past members who have since moved away still contribute to the club.

“One of our members who moved to South Dakota is still reading with us,” Neulicht said. “Sometimes we include her via Zoom and sometimes she will email us her excellent input. Another member left town last year and is traveling all over the country but she also keeps reading with us and sends us her detailed experience of the book via email.”

Currently, there are 13 “Award-Winning” members and most of them meet on the second Saturday of every month to discuss their perspectives on whichever book the club is reading. 

Many of the members joined because they were new to Lynden and wanted to connect with new people that shared a common interest.

This was the case for Mary VanderPloeg. She moved to Lynden in 2019 to retire after being a certified elementary school teacher and librarian in Vancouver and Lacey, Washington. 

VanderPloeg knew that the public library would have programs that would not only enable her to meet new people but to read books she might not have previously picked up. 

“Since the selected books have generally won some type of literature award, the books were likely to be well-written and of high quality,” VanderPloeg said. “I have found this to be generally true and have enjoyed discussing the titles with other women in our group.”

Five titles are chosen every autumn by Neulicht after whittling down a long list of possible books recommended by members. 12 titles from the remaining options are turned into a reading list, including one classic literature title per year. 

The group will be discussing "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain at their May get-together. It’s the group’s “classic” book of the year. In June they’ll debrief "The Storyteller of Casablanca" by Fiona Valpy.

An upcoming member to the club is Suzan Brawnlyn, who was a librarian in Sitka, Alaska. She has spent time moving between Alaska and Washington but was always tied to a book group somehow. 

Brawnlyn spent much of her time working in libraries because she loved the categorization and organization of literature, not necessarily because she enjoyed reading.

“I will be honest, I was never an avid reader ... but I loved the library because it gave me food to feed my creative mind and heart,” Brawnlyn said. 

Neulicht, VanderPloeg and Brawnlyn all agreed that book clubs not only enrich a community but enrich one’s perception of the world around them. 

“It has been a great way for me to meet people and someone often brings up a question or idea from a book that I had not thought about,” VanderPloeg said.

Neulicht remarked on one member in particular who experienced a significant amount of personal growth since joining the book club.

“She was a firm believer in making your bed and lying in it,” Neulicht said. But during discussions with her peers about the club’s books, which often portray characters in challenging situations, she began to empathize with those who face hardship and understand the lasting impact these situations can have.

More information about WCLS book clubs can be found at the county library’s event calendar.

Aislinn Jones

Aislinn Jones (she/her) is a city life reporter for The Front. She is a junior majoring in visual journalism with a concentration in art history, so her work often reflects her interest in art and/or music events. Outside of the newsroom, you can find her taking photos on her film camera or hammocking in the sun. You can reach her at

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