2023 Senior Book Club

Reading List

Senior Book Club meets at 3pm on the second Tuesday of the month at Luther Crest in Allentown. All are welcome.

Click the links below to view our catalog and place a hold.

Non-residents may participate with their own copy of the book.

Recommendations made during our program can be found below.

Be sure to RSVP on our events calendar.

*Reading list is subject to change.

January

Elephant Company by Vicki Croke, 2014

On order for Parkland, 2 copies in network, Hoopla audiobook  

February

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, 2018

Large print, 9 copies in network, Libby ebook and Libby audiobook

March

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, 1948

4 copies in network, Free ebook to download

April

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams, 2021

7 copies in network, Libby ebook, Hoopla ebook, Hoopla audiobook 

May

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell, 2021

2 copies in network, Hoopla ebook, Hoopla audiobook

June

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham, 1915

3 copies in network, Libby ebook, Hoopla ebook

July

Oh William by Elizabeth Stout, 2021

10 copies in network, playaway (audio), Libby ebook, Libby audiobook

August

Anxious People by Frederick Backman, 2020

3 Large Print in network, 11 copies in network, playaway (audio), Libby ebook, Libby audiobook

September

Beauty of Dusk by Frank Bruni, 2022

One copy in network, Book

October

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney, 2017

3 copies in network, Hoopla audiobook

November

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottleib,  2019

6 copies in network, Libby ebook

January

Elephant Company

by Vicki Croke, 2014

1920, Billy Williams came to colonial Burma as a “forest man” for a British teak company. Mesmerized by the intelligence and character of the great animals who hauled logs through the jungle, he became a gifted “elephant wallah.” In Elephant Company, Vicki Constantine Croke chronicles Williams’s growing love for elephants as the animals provide him lessons in courage, trust, and gratitude.

February

Small Great Things

by Jodi Picoult, 2018

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years of experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family–especially her teenage son–as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others–and themselves–might be wrong.

March

I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith, 1948

I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love.

By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”– and the heart of the reader– in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

April

The Reading List

by Sara Nisha Adams, 2021

Adams’s winsome debut follows a widower who takes up reading in order to honor the memory of his wife. After Londoner Mukesh’s wife, Naina, dies, he picks up the book she was reading before she died, The Time-Traveler’s Wife, hoping “to turn the black letters and yellowed pages into a letter from Naina to him.” When he later returns the book to the library, he meets the restless and prickly 17-year-old library worker Aleisha, who reluctantly took the job after encouragement from her troubled older brother, also a bookworm. As time passes, Mukesh and Aleisha become good friends, with Mukesh and his granddaughter, Priya, joining in on a reading list Aleisha found tucked in a returned book, which includes such classics as To Kill a Mockingbird, Little Women, and Beloved. When the creator of the list is revealed, there isn’t much in the way of surprise, but it gains emotional resonance after Adams links the list to a late-breaking tragic event. Adams is a brisk and solid plotter and has an easy hand with creating characters who are easy to root for. Readers will be charmed and touched.

May

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism

by Amanda Montell, 2021

Using accessible prose, the author discusses the varied definitions of the word cult, the dangers of universally demonizing its terminology, and its murky history as society’s relationship with spirituality has evolved. Montell has always been intrigued by her father’s involvement in the Synanon movement in the 1970s, and she explores a wide range of “fanatical fringe groups with extreme ideologies.” The author compares their initial appeal to scanning the scene of an accident: The brain must assess the personal threat level and activate its “fight or flight” reaction. There is also the organic human need for communal intimacy, purpose, belonging, and organizational order.

June

Of Human Bondage

by Somerset Maugham, 1915

Generally agreed as Maugham’s literary masterpiece, Of Human Bondage is the semi-autobiographical tale of Philip Carey. First published in 1915, the novel follows the life of Philip, who suffers from the disability of a clubbed foot, from boyhood when he is orphaned and sent to live with his aunt and uncle. Similarly, Maugham was sent to live with his aunt and uncle when his mother passed away, and also suffered from a disability of a speech impediment. This coming-of-age story traces the travels of its main character to Germany, Paris, and London while exploring his intellectual, emotional, and psychological development. His desire to become an artist; his pursuit of a medical degree; and his relationships with four women, the destructive Mildred Rogers, fellow art student Fanny Price, the sensitive author of penny romance novels Norah Nesbit, and the daughter of befriended family man Thorpe Athelny, whose named Sally; are all chronicled throughout the novel. Ultimately Of Human Bondage is the story of life’s struggle between one’s aspirations and what is reasonably achievable. –Amazon

July

Oh William

by Elizabeth Strout, 2021

Lucy, aged 63, begins with typical directness. She wants to say a few things about her first husband, William, who is approaching 70. They have remained friendly, post-divorce, and he turns to her when his third wife leaves him. Lucy agrees to accompany him on a trip to Maine to investigate a disconcerting discovery that rearranges both of their understandings about his mother. Lucy reflects on her life with and without him: her bleak childhood, his affairs, her abandonment of their marriage and children, and her happy second marriage. Strout aims to explore the mystery of how people become who they are. In a moving metaphor, Lucy compares William and herself to Hansel and Gretel, lost in the woods, looking for the breadcrumbs that could lead them home. But even now, in their senior years, they’re lost, a mystery to each other and to themselves. The way ahead remains unknown and frightening. When Lucy thinks, “Oh William!” she knows she also means, “Oh Lucy!” and, with the tenderest sympathy and empathy, “Oh Everyone!”

August

Anxious People

by Frederick Backman, 2020

When the world’s most hapless bank robber inadvertently takes a group of the world’s most helpful people hostage, hilarity doesn’t exactly ensue as much as it evolves. With a failed marriage, no job, potential loss of child custody, and a looming eviction, the idea of robbing a bank presents itself as an appealing solution to this harrowing list of woes. When the bank turns out to be one of those new-fangled cashless entities, the foiled robber flees and dashes into a nearby apartment building where an eclectic group of potential buyers is suffering through a sale’s pitch. Unwitting participants in the developing drama, the group nonetheless warms to their wannabe-bank-robber captor and each other over the course of the day’s events. In this small suburb of Stockholm, only the local police are on the scene, a father-and-son team who try hard not to step on each other’s toes while de-escalating the hostage situation and interviewing witnesses.

September

 Beauty of Dusk

by Frank Bruni, 2022

New York Times columnist Bruni (Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be) imparts in this generous memoir the wisdom he learned after he began to lose his eyesight. One morning in October 2017, Bruni woke up with blurry vision, only to later discover that a stroke had destroyed the optic nerve in one of his eyes, leaving the other eye vulnerable to a similar fate and Bruni at risk of total blindness. “It made me tremble, tested me, and forced me to see in a new way,” he writes. Coming to terms with his new reality, Bruni delves into the emotional, psychological, and social tolls of losing his eyesight, while musing on the experience of aging, connecting his story to the way Joe Biden’s age was discussed when he was running for president. Despite being widely considered as past his “prime,” Bruni argues that the septuagenarian candidate “defied the naysayers”: “what Biden lacked in zip, he made up for in zen.” It’s a compassionate take on growing older that, when combined with sanguine insights on living with compromised vision, illustrates Bruni’s knack for writing about the unpredictable beauty of the human condition. Smartly mixing memoir and cultural criticism, this movingly speaks to an entire generation. –Publisher’s Weekly

October

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

by Kathleen Rooney, 2017

Inspired by Margaret Fishback, poet and Macy’s ad-writing phenom of the 1930s, Rooney imagines an extraordinary walk through the streets of New York City on the last night of 1984, one that triggers a flood of memories for fictional ad woman Lillian Boxfish. The octogenarian muses on the changing urban landscape as she stops at favorite haunts: an intimate neighborhood bar that’s just installed a TV, a restaurant where she’s dined every New Year’s Eve that’s about to change owners, the famed Delmonico’s, where she ended her marriage. Further stops include a changing lower Manhattan landscape where she meets a haunted Vietnam veteran and engages him in a “best last-line contest,” a detour to a hospital emergency room with a frightened woman about to have her first baby, and a party where she’s both scorned and adored by a new generation of artists, followed by a hilarious encounter with three muggers. Meanwhile, Lillian carefully recounts her celebrated career in advertising, her adored husband and son, and her emotional breakdown. Elegantly written, Rooney creates a glorious paean to a distant literary life and time—and an unabashed celebration of human connections that bridge the past and future. –Publisher’s Weekly

November

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

by Lori Gottlieb,  2019

From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and a surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist’s world–where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).”

Recommendations

Books discussed in the club can be found here.

Life is Hard

by Kieran Setiya

NAMED THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORKER AND THE ECONOMIST

Life Is Hard is a humane consolation for challenging times. Reading it is like speaking with a thoughtful friend who never tells you to cheer up, but, by offering gentle companionship and a change of perspective, makes you feel better anyway.” —The New York Times Book Review

There is no cure for the human condition: life is hard. But Kieran Setiya believes philosophy can help. He offers us a map for navigating rough terrain, from personal trauma to the injustice and absurdity of the world. 

Setiya (philosophy, MIT; Midlife: A Philosophical Guide) makes the case that while life has challenging moments, philosophical ideas can help overcome these setbacks. By understanding pain, loss, grief, failure, and more, people can see their purpose, which will help them cope. Each chapter is dedicated to a different ailment of life, such as pain, loneliness, and grief. The author emphasizes that there is no cure or easy way out; only facing the challenges and understanding them will help one through. Setiya uses many schools of thought from the past and present, personal experiences, experts, and movie and TV show examples, all to demonstrate how philosophy can help people. A thorough notes section is included. This is not a self-help book where one walks away with a step-by-step plan. The purpose of this book is to show how philosophy can help with tough situations, and it isn’t necessary to be knowledgeable about different philosophies. VERDICT Libraries that serve those interested in philosophy will want to make this a first purchase.—Michelle LettusCopyright 2022 Library Journal.

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