Dragon’s Hoard discovers secret to book club longevity

The members of the Dragon’s Hoard. On the stairs, from the left: Kim Marberry, Dan Rodgers, Jean Johnson, Hayley Rodgers, Deni Johnson, Tara Caton, Tricia McDonald, Tammy Wright and Tracy Hampton. Standing in front: Rodney Wenz and Gretchen McKane.

Book clubs often start with the best of intentions, but reality soon sets in.

Sooner or later, a challenging or controversial book is “assigned” for the group read and discussions devolve into bitterness that spills over into personal interactions.

Keizerite Gretchen McKane and friend Tara Caton figured out a different, more lasting, formula. 

“What we didn’t want was a club where we assigned books and then everyone got together to rip it apart,” McKane said. “There’s no homework and we’re not in grade school anymore, we get together and talk about the things that excite us.”

What excites the Dragon’s Hoard Book Club, which meets almost monthly in Keizer, is science fiction and fantasy. The group first began meeting on September 2016 and is still going strong. 

Members are still welcome to vent about the books that don’t speak to them as readers, but the club is mostly about sharing passions. 

“We get together and talk about what we’re reading, different authors and if there’s been movies or TV series made out of them those are fair game, too,” McKane said. 

In addition to book talk, Dragon’s Hoard members make field trips to bookstores in Portland and other near-flung locales, get togethers for movie nights at member homes and at theaters, and have even hosted guest authors at club meetings. 

In April, Portland author Amy Cissell visited. In May, Seattle-area author Jean Johnson stopped by. 

“I really like the energy and enthusiasm everyone has for all their favorite things,” Johnson wrote to the club after the visit. She said the goal of bringing an enthusiasm to the rest of the club was preferable to the homework assignments of other groups. Johnson’s military science fiction debut began with A Soldier’s Duty, part of the series Theirs Not to Reason Why, but she’s written a throng of other titles and in other genres.

Author Jean Johnson signs books for club members. 

McKane said the outreach to area authors is something new for the club and she hopes to find others interested in joining the Hoard for a meeting. 

Another thing that makes Dragon’s Hoard unique is that members take minutes of every meeting. That might sound like a chore, but it’s yielded a growing resource for everyone involved. While there are the run-of-the-mill things found in meeting notes, there are now nine full pages of reading and viewing recommendations, sources for finding new authors and books, video and tabletop game recommendations that draw on themes the club enjoys, and even fan fiction picks. The minutes alone are their own treasure trove. 

For McKane, that’s been the best part of starting the club and keeping it going: the discovery of new passions. 

“What we wanted was a motivator to read more. I read The Hobbit 20 times before we started the club and I haven’t read it in a long time because of the club and the list we’ve generated. The club makes me read more and new authors and styles of writing,” McKane said. 

The Dragon’s Hoard has a reduced schedule during the summer and winter, but the remaining meeting dates of the year are Sept. 16, Oct. 21, and Nov. 18 (the third Monday of the months). For more information on joining, contact McKane at [email protected]. You can also find them on Facebook, search for Dragon’s Hoard Book Club and send a request to join.