Penn Bookstore book club

Bookstore book club

WHAT: In late May, the Penn Bookstore launched a free monthly book club geared towards professionals, but open to everyone—faculty, staff and non-Penn-affiliated members of the community.

WHEN: The club meets on the third Wednesday of each month in the Bookstore cafe, located on the second floor, 3601 Walnut St. The next meeting takes place on June 17 at noon, with additional gatherings on July 15 and Aug. 19. Club meetings last no more than an hour and feature complimentary coffee and cookies.

PAGE-TURNERS: Risa Levitt, the Penn Bookstore’s events and marketing manager, is heading up the book club efforts and selected “The Soloist” by Steve Lopez as the club’s inaugural read in May. At the June meeting, participants will discuss Jhumpa Lahiri’s 2003 novel, “The Namesake,” and in July, the club will talk about Jon Krakauer’s 2007 nonfiction book, “Into the Wild.”

CHOOSING THE TITLES: Levitt says picking “The Soloist” was an easy choice, since it was already a well-known title that the Bookstore had promoted heavily. To get ideas for future reads, Levitt says she combed through lists of New York Times bestsellers and Pulitzer Prize-winners. Her goal is to select books that will appeal to both men and women, and are likely to spark a lively discussion among the group. Sensitive to the tastes of readers, Levitt plans to alternate fiction with nonfiction from month to month.

NOW, DISCUSS: Levitt leads the club discussions, posing questions and soliciting readers’ thoughts and impressions about the selections. The discussion about “The Soloist”—the true story of a schizophrenic homeless man with an extraordinary musical talent—extended beyond the book, as readers shared their thoughts about homelessness and the state of healthcare in the United States. “The Namesake”—a novel that is, in part, about immigration—promises to have just as much discussion potential.

SUMMER READS: Levitt says already, the club has proven to be popular. Nearly 50 people have signed up on the listserv and about a dozen attended the inaugural meeting in May. “During the summer, it’s a nice way for people to chat,” she says. It’s also a great way to connect and network with people around the University and the neighborhood.

MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS BENEFITS: To become a book club member, send Levitt an email at and she’ll add your name to the club’s listserv. Members receive notices about upcoming meetings; those who RSVP for book club gatherings receive a Bookstore coupon that knocks 20 percent off the price of that month’s featured selection.

Originally published on June 11, 2009