Hennessey said he enjoys the free flow of ideas during the monthly meetings. "Nobody's here to particularly force any theory on anybody. . . . Everyone is open to all perspectives," he said.
Jim Kempner, 63, of Holland, a retired chemical engineer, said, "Sometimes the discussions are very nice, and sometimes, no. But that's like life."
For him, the discussions work when themes are explored, and they falter when members digress.
A native of Cuba, Kempner introduced Carlos Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana to the members, who discussed it recently.
Founding member Joyce Baral, 70, of Doylestown Borough, a retired legal secretary, said she is exposed to a wide range of reading material.
"I like the idea that the group generally is willing to accept something that is challenging and out of the range," she said.
Hennessey conceded that a couple of the books have been clunkers, but added that they still served a purpose.
"Even though the books were not wonderful examples of expository prose, the topics were important enough that people wanted to talk about them," he said.
The discussions generally revolve around the psychological motivation of the characters and the techniques of the authors. The member who proposes the book initiates the discussion with a couple of questions.
New members should not fear an esoteric dissection of the books.
"Most books are about people. How did they get into a situation? How do they grow? . . . [The discussion] is readily available to everyone," said Hennessey, who has been a member since 1996.
He added that the most satisfying discussions have ensued when the authors have visited. In the last two years, the members have met with Shawn McBride, author of Green Grass Grace; Richard Wertime, author of Citadel on the Mountain; and Christian Bauman, who wrote The Ice Beneath You.
At 44, Hennessey said he's probably the youngest of the regulars, but he hopes to attract younger readers.
"If they'd like to forward me suggestions to influence more younger readers, I'd be happy to be their champion," he said.
Hennessey's suggestion for the next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 13, is Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, a series of Vietnam stories. The book will be required reading for two of his community college classes.
"It gives a greater appreciation of what the men and women in the United States armed services are going through right now in Iraq," he said. "And shedding light on that situation is one of the most important things we can do right now."
Contact suburban staff writer Valerie Reed at 215-702-7806 or email@example.com.
The next meeting of the book discussion group is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 in Room 15 of the Rollins Center at Bucks County Community College, Swamp Road, Newtown Township. To learn more, call 215-968-8164 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.