Iliana Imberman Berkowitz, best known for her award winning baked goods and brutal honesty, enjoys having her cake and eating it too.

For a long time, I was simply a collector of books. I traipsed around used book stores, looking for long-forgotten gems, or soiled copies of classics. I modeled my own consumption of and interest in paper specimens after the habits of my family.

I grew up surrounded by books of all varieties: my dad’s complete collection of Ursula Le Guin and travel literature; my brother’s baseball statistics and high school textbooks; and my mom’s enormous variety of radical guidebooks, historical fiction, Jewish crime mysteries, and feminist poetry. Out of everyone, my mom was always and still remains the most active reader of the family. She is well-read in all her interest fields, and also remains open-minded, often taking suggestions from those she respects.

My mother was one of my inspirations for starting Ladies Book Club, a monthly meeting of literary discussion and feverish cheese-eating with female friends and female friends of friends. The discussion centers around a specific book, chosen by one member or the collective group. Although we tend to pick more recent novels, there is no main theme that binds our choices. We’ve read works by men and women, white folks and people of color, feminist-leaning and apolitical, highly praised books and lesser-knowns. The only obvious thing that connects us all is that we are females and recent college graduates who enjoy reading for pleasure.

Now in its sixth month, I am incredibly proud of what LBC has become. From a small group, membership has doubled. Friends invited new friends to the club, and in this way, we have all formed new bonds. We use a collective model when choosing our next selection, and everybody engages in thoughtful, respectful dialogue during the planning process and in the meetings themselves.This month, we are even changing up the food routine from simple wine and cheese assortments to a full on pot luck — imagine the possibilities!

Last October, the linguist Deborah Tannen described the ways in which siblings communicated with each other and in particular, how talking to one’s sister can brighten up their mood. Perhaps it’s because I grew up sans sister, but I’ve recently come to terms with how important it is to me to maintain close relationships with other women, and that when I am at my happiest when surrounded by women around whom I feel comfortable and empowered when expressing my intellect. But maybe the best part about starting LBC is that I’ve learned all over again how much I love to read.

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