Book Group gives exposure to ASU authors

ASU Book Group member Laura Hogue holds up next month's book reading called "Burning Shield" on Sept. 2. (Photo by Emily Johnson) ASU Book Group member Laura Hogue holds up next month's book reading called "Burning Shield" on Sept. 2. (Photo by Emily Johnson)

The ASU English Department-sponsored Book Group is set to start its fourth year on Sept. 24.

Moderator Judith Smith originally started the group in 2010, because she wanted the ASU community to meet a bevy of interesting writers that are unknown to many readers.

“I wrote for Insight (ASU's faculty/staff newsletter) and did media relations for ASU for 25 years, and during that time, I interviewed many faculty and staff that the average person would not have the opportunity to get to know,” Smith said.

Smith said the emphasis has always been on giving exposure to talented ASU and local authors.

“We have such a rich treasure trove of writing available to us that’s almost overwhelming,” she said.

Two of the interesting authors the club has read before are Laura Tohe, whose father was a Navajo Code Talker, and ASU English Professor Alberto Ríos, who is Arizona’s first Poet Laureate.

Smith also said she doesn’t plan to change much about the book club, but has already been planning ahead for the group meetings.

“This year, I have authors booked for every month but May, and I already have two prospects scheduled for next year,” Smith said.

For the September meeting, author and ASU graduate Landon J. Napoleon will be presenting his novel, "Burning Shield: The Jason Schechterle Story."

The group meets from 12 to 1 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month in the Durham Language and Literature Building. All ASU students, faculty, staff and even the public are welcome to attend and participate in the group meetings.

A typical group meeting consists of learning about the authors and their respective books, giving members an opportunity to receive different perspectives from listening to each author.

“I introduce the author, who tells us a bit about the book and how she came to write it,” said Smith. “The group then discusses the book and has a chance to ask the author questions."

Smith said she also treats each guest author to lunch after the meetings.

The club is a huge draw for students who have never been involved, but are looking for a way to participate and learn interesting material.

“Although I am not a part of the club, I am thinking about joining, because the club gives students a great chance to explore the distinguished writing of talented authors in the area,” said business freshman Aaron Shapiro.

Community sports management freshman Connor Pelton is also interested in the vast learning opportunities offered by the group.

“The group intrigues me, because I may get the chance to meet authors who can further my knowledge in both reading and writing,” he said.

In addition to drawing interest from newcomers, participating in the group has had a huge impact on many, including ASU counseling specialist Laura Hogue, who has been involved since the group’s inception.

“One of the books about the Tucson massacre, written by a faculty member in the law department, forever changed the way I look at law enforcement,” Hogue said.

The group is very welcoming and is always looking for new members to share in the great experience of learning from different authors.

“ASU has a lot to offer, including talented writers,” Hogue said. “The group gives everyone a unique opportunity to meet a few ASU and local authors, read their books and ask them questions.”

Reach the reporter at or follow him on Twitter @justintoscano3

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