Book Club of Detroit celebrates 65th anniversary at annual meeting and Christmas luncheon

by Marcia McBrien

The Book Club of Detroit’s annual holiday luncheon is always a joyful and well-attended occasion. The mood at this year’s event was especially celebratory, as BCD marked its 65th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. Our special guests were our featured speaker, Clements Director Paul Erickson, and Angela Oonk, the library’s director of development.  We enjoyed Paul’s fascinating presentation on “Book Stores and Book Trade in the 19th Century.” (See companion piece, “What is a Bookstore?”)

The well-attended luncheon included many past presidents and board members. At far right, BCD Director-at-large Charles Hanson chats with past President Joan Knoertzer, wearing her signature University of Michigan hat.

This year’s luncheon was held at a new venue for BCD: The historic Longacre House in Farmington Hills, beautifully decorated for Christmas. BCD members and their guests enjoyed wine in the library and browsed the ever-popular silent auction, with many beautiful and interesting books donated by BCD members. We enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by Gourmet Express Catering. with a sumptuous sweets table sponsored by BCD past president and treasurer Joseph Ajlouny. Other past presidents in attendance were C. Hedger Breed III, Joan Knoertzer, Alice Nigoghosian, and Janet Whitson, as well as past board members Vera Boyd and Blondell Doughty.

The sweets table at BCD’s luncheon.

Outgoing President Charlene Kull told an audience of 54 BCD members and guests that 2023 was a very successful year for the club, with a growing membership, more new and younger members, and a healthy, stable budget, thanks to BCD’s silent auctions, directory advertisements, and members’ generous support.

A high point of the meeting: We were delighted to learn that Ned Blackhawk, son of BCD member Evan Blackhawk,  has won the 2023 National Book Award for Nonfiction for his book The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History. Ned Blackhawk is the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University.

Highlights of the year include:

  • The launch of BCD’s new website, Completely redesigned, the website features event photos, a calendar, membership information, and all the past BCD newsletters. The website continues to be a work in progress, with online membership forms, event registration, and payment features to be added in 2024.
  • The club heightened its online presence through Facebook and Instagram. BCD’s FaceBook page has over 2,300 followers, including other book clubs and related institutions.
  • While continuing to contact members through “snail mail,” BCD now also reaches members and others through Constant Contact.
  • BCD’s participation in major book fairs, such as Detroit BookFest (organized by BCD past president Ryan Place) and the Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair (organized by BCD past president Jay Platt), led to a leap in membership, including a number of younger members.
  • BCD enjoyed a busy schedule of club-sponsored events. In February, Jon Buller, acclaimed hand binder and former owner of Bessenberg Bindery, gave a presentation on book repair techniques. Jon also assessed various “patients” brought in by members, with possible fixes and approximate repair costs. In April, Jay Platt, owner of Ann Arbor’s West Side Books, spoke about Arctic and Antarctic explorers and his extensive book collection on them. A June “bookstore crawl” in Ann Arbor featured West Side Book Shop, Dawn Treader, Third Mind Books, and Motte & Bailey. Also in June, and for the first time in over four years, BCD sponsored a book “show and tell,” with members sharing some of their special books and ephemera with each other – a fun and educational event. Other events included a September tour of BCD member and bookseller John King’s rare book room, an exceptional treat. In October, we visited the Ford Piquette Plant Museum, with BCD member and museum trustee Mike Skinner as our tour leader. Over 60 early Ford vehicles are on display there. Photos from these and other BCD events are posted at
  • This summer, BCD board members were invited to an evening reception and tour at the Clements Library to celebrate two years of the American Trust for the British Library (ATBL) and Clements Library Transatlantic Fellowship Program. This partnership was made possible with the generous support of a gift to the ATBL from Merle and Felicia Shapiro and a gift to the Clements from ATBL Board of Trustees member and BCD member James Spica.

As Charlene concluded her remarks, Vice-President Hedger Breed, Treasurer Maurice Barie, and Secretary Marcia McBrien gathered at the podium to present Charlene with a gift in gratitude for her three years of exceptional leadership. Charlene had been on the BCD board for less than two weeks when she was tapped by Hedger to step into the then-vacant office of president. Thanks in large part to Charlene, BCD surmounted the formidable challenges of the COVID era, not only surviving, but growing and becoming more active and vital.

Outgoing President Charlene Kull was honored for three years of outstanding service to BCD with — of course! — a book as a token of the club’s gratitude. Charlene unwraps the gift as incoming President Marcia McBrien and Treasurer Maurice Barie look on.

The annual meeting portion of the event concluded with the election of new board members Janet Blackhawk, Tom Meyer, Tiana Washington, and Jeffrey White. Charlene thanked outgoing board members – now directors emeriti – David Head and Paul Schoch for their contributions to BCD, and also recognized board members-at-large Charles Hanson and Alice Nigoghosian.

BCD members enjoying catching up and “book chat.”

Following the annual meeting, a brief board of directors meeting was held to elect BCD’s 2024 officers: President Marcia McBrien, Vice-President Hedger Breed, Treasurer Maurice Barie, and Secretary Jeff White. BCD looks forward to another active year, with three events already being planned, and to continuing our relationship with the Clements Library.

Marcia McBrien is President of the Book Club of Detroit.

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