Books are still rock stars in Beaufort County.
Author Karen White packed the house Thursday at the Hampton Hall Clubhouse in Bluffton. She spoke and signed books as part of the University of South Carolina Beaufort's "Lunch with Author" series, which has sold out most events since its inception 11 years ago. White, of Atlanta, has written 15 novels in 13 years, including the Tradd Street series set in Charleston.
On Wednesday, author Cassandra King of Beaufort attracted more than 250 people to a Women's Association of Hilton Head Island event.
On the same day, the meeting room was full at the Hilton Head library when our editorial page editor, Janet Smith, was the "Book Break" speaker, reviewing Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals."
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Last month, best-selling author Michael Connelly filled the house for the Moss Creek Author Series.
Churches, and small groups within churches, read books together. And it seems we have a book club behind every palmetto tree.
I went to the "Lunch with Author" on Thursday to get a feel for why the book still rocks in the digital age. More than 200 people -- almost all of them women -- had paid $42 to be there.
More than half said they still prefer paper books when series coordinator Jo Ann Kingsley asked for a show of hands. Most are platform agnostic: They'll read either. But when someone mentioned she likes to go into a book store and feel the books, it drew applause.
It was said that when people are retired, like many in the audience, they have more time to read books. And that electronic books make it easier and cheaper to read five a month instead of two.
Readers like the humor at the book events. They said Cassandra King described her hometown in Alabama as so small all it had was a Shell station and a Subway. To which her New York editor replied, "It can't be that small if it has a subway."
But there's something to be read between the lines for this crowd that has flipped its way from Nancy Drew to Catherine the Great.
Book clubs are about more than books. They can become "our little community" and smooth each other's rough chapters in life, involving sickness and death.
And authors offer encouragement. They stand before an audience, probably half of whom are frustrated writers, and tell what finally pushed them to quit dreaming and start writing.
That encouragement is not limited to the hope of being published, bought, read and appreciated. For many people, particularly women, their vocation is different from their calling, I was told. And authors stand as living proof that it's never too late to be yourself.