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Storyteller’s delight

After 40 years of reviewing, book clubs are still calling

Created date

December 23rd, 2013
woman standing at a microphone

“Dallas is the only city in the world where you can talk all day and get paid for it,” says Joy Davis, a professional book reviewer who’s been on the speaking circuit for more than four decades.

Joy’s career got its start in the mid-1960s, when her husband Jewell, an electrical engineer with LTV Corporation, was transferred to Dallas.

“Book clubs were at their height in the ’60s,” says Joy. “There were more than 150 clubs in Dallas, each meeting monthly to hear a paid speaker give a book review.”

And although there were already 35 or so professional book reviewers in the city, Joy knew she had found “the exact right plan” for her life.

Setting herself apart

“I had to find a way to distinguish myself from other reviewers, so I decided to dress in costume,” says Joy. “I either dressed as a character from the novel or from the time period of the book.”

Joy’s calculation paid off, and soon she was among the most sought-after book reviewers in the South.

“My speaking engagements run from October to May,” says Joy. “I take the months of June and July to read and select my book for the next year. I write my script in August, memorize it in September, and I’m ready to perform in October.”

Suited for the role

This year, Joy’s book selection was based on the PBS television series Downton Abbey.

“I find books with a connection to current events or popular culture,” says Joy. “That’s why I chose Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle for the 2013–2014 year.”

Joy traces her speaking talents and her ability to memorize up to an hour’s presentation back to her childhood years.

“My father was a minister of music,” says Joy. “I started singing in church when I was in college. I would give a little speech about the history of the hymn before I sang. It didn’t take me long to realize that people connected more with what I was saying than with my singing.”

Joy says her mother’s influence was equally as important during her formative years.

“My mother was a librarian,” says Joy. “On Saturday afternoons, we’d pack a picnic and take a book to read together as a family. We read Gone With the Wind when I was nine, Les Misérables when I was ten.”

Still reviewing

In 2010, Joy and Jewell moved to Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas.

“My husband spent four months evaluating 15 retirement communities,” says Joy. “Always an engineer, he created spreadsheets for each one and came to the conclusion that Highland Springs was the right fit for us. We both appreciate the on-site medical center and enclosed walkways that connect the residence buildings and the clubhouse.”

Highland Springs serves as Joy’s home base as she travels around Dallas giving up to 100 reviews each year.

“Against the backdrop of everyday life, book reviewing has been my creative escape,” says Joy. “It’s still fun after 40 years.”