ABOUT ELIZABETH HOAGLAND: BOOK CLUB LEADER -Born and raised in Lexington, KY, a/k/a Wildcat Country, I’m a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Cats!!—Can’t resist).  More desirous of an “MRS” degree, however graduating with a French major in 1982 (one can surely do A LOT with that!), I married a tall, dark, adventurous and handsome husband, John, also a graduate of UK (!), in 1984.

We are blessed with 3 fine young men: Woody - 19, Gordy -  21, (both are students at UK) and  John Jr. -25 (this Oct.), and a precious daughter-in-law, Jamie -24 (this Sept.--finally got  a girl!!!).  Our  newlyweds also live and work in Louisville where we’ve lived all 27 years of our marriage.

I’m further blessed with having the privilege of facilitating the Book Club at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville. It is a mega passion of mine!  This September of 2011, we’ll celebrate our 6th anniversary.  While starting out with a small group and sitting in a circle, we now average 50-60 per meeting and have enjoyed authors coming in person and via Skype, as well as educational speakers.  Our record holds at just under 200 in attendance!  Stay tuned…and we must never forget:   God gets the glory.

I love to read fiction and non-fiction, but never have enough time!  My piles of books runneth over.  Beyond books, I enjoy walks with my husband and our dog.  Now that we’re empty nesters, we enjoy traveling and many times, just sitting on the porch.

Occasionally I’ll make John a needlepoint belt, but sadly, I still don’t excel at sewing buttons on shorts and pants.  Craft impaired comes to mind.  Cooking isn’t necessarily a talent of mine either, but give me a recipe with chocolate and we’re friends for life. Our eyes are finally open to God’s creation and His blessings.  He is amazing and so is His grace. 

What lead up to you starting a book club?  Had you ever been a part of a book club before?  What’s your club’s name? 

Several years ago our Women’s Ministry Team from Southeast Christian Church polled our current Bible study leaders and asked what else they thought we should offer.  Across the board, they all suggested we start a book club.  Our Women’s Ministry leader asked my cousin and myself if we’d be interested in leading this effort.

We agreed after lots of prayer and a dash of nerves (!).  Sadly, shortly after we agreed, my cousin’s Father was diagnosed with cancer and she felt she had to be in Owensboro more than Louisville to be with him…which left me at the helm.  Scary! But God is faithful, and I quickly learned I had to rely on Him and pray like crazy.

Next we had a meeting for those interested in joining a book club and several ladies came.  We chose a few books for the 1st semester and in the beginning, had a hand full of ladies come,  sat in a circle, and discussed the book.

Now, six years later, God has blessed   Book Club’s growth.  We average 50-60 ladies per meeting!  We sit at round tables where we have discussion.  Sometimes questions are posed to the entire group, but mostly just at the table.

No, I’ve never been part of a book club, which made it quite interesting to see how we’d handle our meetings!  We’ve evolved into a bit of a format, however when we have authors visit, we take their lead as to how they’d like the meeting to run.

Our Book Club’s name is ultra original:   The Southeast Book Club! We need a catchier phrase…A book club one of my friends led in Florida was called “Garden of Readin’”….Love that!

Hi, I’m interested in being a part of your book club, could you please describe for me what I can expect?  What does your typical meeting look like?

In a typical meeting, we have food and fellowship first. The girls usually bring an appetizer or a dessert and oh, you should see the food!!! (We meet for 90 min., usually from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. on Monday nights.  We meet during the school year, once a month, August – May)  Then we’ll have an opening prayer, announcements—sort of a “what’s new in the book world” informational time, a devotion or focus which usually comes from a theme in the book we’re reading, time for discussion, drawings for door prizes (ALL our door prizes—usually books—come with chocolate…that’s my rule I made up & it’s been ever-so-popular!!!) and then we adjourn.
Our Group met Charles Martin

Again, when we have authors come, we let them talk about whatever they wish.  The girls enjoy asking them questions and they’ll usually stay and sign books.
Our group met Ann Gabhart & Jan Watson
When we have authors visit via Skype, they’ll usually spend 15-20 minutes with us.  Another trick with Skyping is how to handle different time zones and trying to match our window of time, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.EST. So far we’ve not had a problem, but I’ve heard you can do a recorded Skype to show later…so that may be an option down the road for us. 

We get questions all the time about how to join.  We are very flexible and love to have newcomers!  There’s no official “membership” or anything…just kind of a show- up-and–enjoy-kind-of-atmosphere.  We’ve found that with a non-threatening environment, gals are more likely to come even with walking thru’ the church doors which potentially could be intimidating.

My favorite stats from Book Club I love to share are we’ve had nearly 800 different individuals attend representing 102 different churches in our almost 6 years!   

Please describe to me how the book selection process works for your club?  Do you vote w/ a secret ballet?  Or some other method?  Do tell.  This will be helpful to book club leaders just starting out!!!

Well, this is indeed the TEN MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION!!!  When we met to choose books for 2010-2011, we literally had 45 books out on the tables and only 9 slots available!!!  It’s always the “too many books, too little time” scenario!!!

We have an unofficial committee…we try to find girls who are fervent  readers, and always check several sources re: recommendations, ratings, etc.  Recently, for our 2011-2012 year, we had 3 girls from Book Club, 2 from the Living Word Bookstore and 1 from the  Media Center to choose books.  First, we begin with prayer.

Secondly, we try to offer a variety of books: fiction, non-fiction, and at least one classic/year.  This year our church is focusing on discipleship so we are offering a couple of selections which will really grow your faith and your walk with the Lord.

#4 – Do you share duties at your book club or do you do all the work yourself?  How does that work for your group?  
Our group met Liz Curtis Higgs and Jan Watson
We are blessed to have a large group of volunteers/angels who help with Book Club in many areas…from greeting the girls, to passing out handouts, to helping set the food out, to decorating, to brainstorming with me about ideas, focus/themes, etc.

I usually write the discussion questions if they aren’t already in the book.  That can be challenging to choose a few while praying you’re on the right track for what the author is looking for!  I’ve been known to contact the author for help!

I also write a monthly newsletter to the girls who are on our mailing list with more tidbits going on in our area, a reminder about our upcoming meeting, etc.  For example, on Sept. 20th, Liz Curtis Higgs, who lives here in Louisville, will be doing a taping of 3 of her talks for future audio cd’s .  She’s recording at a church nearby, and anyone can come.  She rarely speaks in Louisville because she travels so much.  She’s come twice to our Book Club when we’ve done a couple of her books (Grace in Thine Eyes and Here Burns My Candle) Our girls are huge fans of hers.  She’s a total hoot, articulates grace better than anyone I’ve ever heard, and is a mega blessing to so many of us. (Info’ for this is on her website: )

What’s the most creative thing you all have done for book club?  What was something that was way over the top for you and everyone loved? 

My over-the-top fun and meaningful meeting  was one where we had 4 different speakers.  3 came and spoke live, while the author of our selection for the month visited via Skype.  What was so cool, that only God could have orchestrated, was that we realized, after the meeting, that speaker “A”, led to speaker “B”, which led into the Skype and was the solution to the problem offered.  We also had a surprise testimony from one of our members which made the author cry!

The author who visited via Skype?  Karen Kingsbury!  I still can’t believe she took the time to visit with us given her crazy schedule. She was amazing, very real, and down to earth. One of my friends spoke to her at the end of our time together and shared how her Redemption series led her to look into caring for the elderly which she’s now done for years. She literally uncovered one of her God-given gifts!   Her powerful testimony brought Karen to tears.

Karen revealed to us at the end of the Skype she was in her kitchen and 2 of her boys had just gotten home from school.  One had just brought her a Kleenex for her tears!

The book of hers we read was Shades of Blue which deals with abortion.  Our 1st speaker told of her experience in having an abortion in college, God’s redemption, and her healing. Our 2nd speakers were gals from a wonderful Christian organization which helps young pregnant girls get back on their feet thru’ a very extensive program where the girl lives on-sight, attends classes, receives counseling, has good medical care, etc.  They were the “solution”.  One of the gals who benefited   from the program was literally headed to have an abortion and wound up going into the wrong building, got connected to Lifehouse , the Christian organization I was talking about, had her baby, and put it up for adoption.  Is God in the details, or what?

How do you get the word out about your book club? How did you get the book club started (answered in #1)?

Our church, Southeast Christian Church, has a bookstore, The Living Word.  Currently our Book Club falls under The Living Word which is great because they promote us so well! It’s a win-win because the Living Word is a self-supporting ministry whose proceeds pay to broadcast Southeast sermons on WHAS-AM and WFIA-FM.

The current monthly selection is displayed on an end cap in the bookstore.  We also have a bookmarker with all four of our upcoming selections for fall, the dates, meeting times, etc. available to grab when purchasing the book, or just for anyone’s information.

We also have a Media Center (library) which posts signs about our upcoming meetings  as well as at our 2 satellite locations where we have mini-bookstores.  Our church newspaper, The Southeast Outlook, mentions our meetings in “The Week Ahead” which is also helpful.

Can you tell me some books that you’ve read your members just raved about?  What made them love the book so much?

Two favorites which both allowed for excellent discussion, are Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore and another one we did early into Book Club is Mary Jensen’s Over Salad and Hot Bread.  A couple of other big hits were by Robin Jones Gunn:  Gardenias for Breakfast, and Sisterchicks do the Hula.  Any of Robin’s Sisterchicks books are total fun for a book club and again, the theme of friendship is always popular, offering helpful relational skills, etc.  We had a big Luau for the “…Hula” book. 

Our most recent book we read this past May was Hurricanes in Paradise by Denise Hildreth Jones.  She drove in from Nashville to be with us.  She was so sweet and sincere.  She read from a few of her books which we so enjoyed because of her southern drawl! 

In addition to being a great author, Denise is very deep spiritually and her heart for the Lord truly came thru’.   She’s a 10 talent gal! (I’m currently reading the 2nd of her 3 Savannah books and her writing is laugh out loud hysterical. Any Book Club could have a  hey day with those books!)


3 fav books of all time?

Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction :  This book is on the Psalms of Ascent, Psalm 120-134, and it helped me thru’ a couple of rough seasons when my parents’ health was declining.  They died 16 mos. apart from each other which was a lot to deal with.  Eugene shows the reader the Bible’s unique way of encouraging you to keep pressing on, holding on to your faith, and trusting in God’s sovereignty.

Robert J. Morgan’s The Promise—How God Works All Things Together For Good:  I discovered this book from another great author who’s come to  Book Club twice, Jan Watson.  I always ask our authors for a book recommendation.  Jan was right on with this book.  I bet I’ve given it to 10 friends and they in turn have done the same, being as impacted as I.  Rob Morgan takes Romans 8:28 and proves it in all areas of our lives.  Big blessing! (This book was also a favorite of our book club gals.)

Liz Curtis Higgs’ Embrace Grace—Welcome to the Forgiven Life.  I mentioned earlier nobody can articulate grace like Liz can.  Reading this book makes you feel like you’re sitting in Jesus’ lap and He’s telling you different ways you freely receive His grace every single day.  Readers wrote in asking Liz, “but what about…” and she beautifully answers the “what if” questions washing away doubt or fear.  Another great gift book.

Please name three things you’d rather not live without?

#1 – Family:  My husband, John, our three sons:  John Jr., Gordy, and Woody, and our sweet daughter-in-law, Jamie!  Our younger two are in college and our newlyweds live here in Louisville.  What a blessing they are and their input on everything under the sun is invaluable. And oh, to have a girl! Can you say, “shopping”?!!!!

#2 - Bien sur, books!  Can’t live without ‘em!  I always have some with me and have a pile goin’ to teach, refresh, encourage, etc.  I do have a Kindle which is great for travel, but when reading a book, especially for Book Club, I like to have it, hold it,  and mark it up!

#3 - Lastly, friends and family would pass out if I didn’t put “chocolate” on the list.  I’m afraid I have quite a rep for being a chocoholic.  Dark chocolate’s my favorite and is quite good for you health-wise.  Problem is the amount I usually inhale isn’t perhaps the healthiest!!!

Time machine:  2 events?

#1 - Parting of the Red Sea—this has always fascinated me and I don’t even know how to picture it.  To see it would be phenomenal. ( Exodus 14)

#2 - Jesus commissioning the disciples before he was taken up to heaven…we wouldn’t have our faith if that little event hadn’t occurred!  Think how many generations have evolved with disciples making disciples.  (Acts 1:8)

What 2 people would you hang out w/and what would you do?

Ruth Bell Graham – We recently visited the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. It’s a must-see!  There was a special room in honor of Ruth with lots of memorabilia and at the end of the whole tour, you wind up in “Ruth’s Attic”, which is the bookstore!  I bought her book on prodigals learned so much.  I would love to  have tea with her and ask her questions about her prayer life, mothering, and survival skills while Billy was away so much.  I’d love to have her spunk!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer—I’m currently reading Eric Metaxas’ book, Bonhoeffer—Pastor,  Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  I knew the basic story of Bonhoeffer, however I never realized his background, close-knit family, utter determination to defend God’s Word, teach it and stand true to it, nor did I realize the frightening infiltration of compromise from the Nazis.  I’d love to talk with him more about how he discipled  young men and learn more of what tactics he taught.  While we’re dreamin’, I’d love to sit down at the piano with him!

What movie most impacted you as a child?  Why?

“Gone With The Wind” was a favorite movie of mine.  I remember going with my across-the-street neighbor and friend.  My Mother drove us and dropped us off.  She was none too tickled to be doing so as it was one of the first Sundays the movie theater had begun showing movies.  We had no clue of how honoring the Sabbath was about to become a lost art.  Plus then we were teenagers who were way more fascinated with Rhett Butler!  I’m afraid I’ve taken Scarlett’s influence a bit too far on worrying about things “tomorrow”…procrastinator that I am!!!  At the time, the movie seemed larger than life and completely captured my heart and imagination.

Thanks Elizabeth for stopping by and letting us get to know you and your book club. It's been fascinating. Hope to see you more at The Book Club Network so you can share more of your book club experiences with others through your book club choices and more fun pictures. We can learn so much from one another! I appreciate you sharing!


Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network 


  1. Loved your interview, Nora and Elizabeth. I've been a guest at the Southeast Book Club and let me assure you they are very welcoming to authors and they do know their books. I had such fun that I wished I lived closer so I could be a member and be there for every meeting. It's been a blessing getting to know Elizabeth over books. A wonderful lady, always kind, always supportive, always encouraging. Thanks so much for the interview. I love Book Clubs.

  2. Loved the interview! Fascinating to hear about it. Thanks for sharing.


  3. What a fun interview. I've never belonged to a book club so it's fascinating to see how one runs. I'll bet you have a lot of fun as well as encourage each other in the truths that are embeded in Christian Fiction. Many blessings on this fascinating and unique ministry.

  4. I really enjoyed this interview. I live in the "country" book clubs not available here. I like it that you recommended certain books...I just ordered the one by RJM....thanks for your thoughts on it.

  5. Hey Nora, I really like your blog so, I awarded you a blog award. So please head over to my blog to find out how you can pick it up :)