Penn Bookstore Monthly Book Club offers lively debate in friendly environment

Penn Bookstore

When it comes to holding book club meetings, it would be hard to find a better location on campus than the Penn Bookstore, where bibliophiles can choose from thousands of titles, coordinate their selections with upcoming visits by authors and couple their discussions with snacks and coffee from the second-floor cafe.

The Penn Bookstore Monthly Book Club, made up of Penn employees and community residents, originated in May 2009, and meets at noon on the third Wednesday of each month.

Risa Levitt, the Bookstore’s events and marketing manager and the club’s founder, says she searches for fiction and nonfiction bestsellers as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning literature that appeals to both men and women and is likely to spark lively discussion.

Club regulars also provide suggestions, and “we collaboratively agree on the title for the following month,” Levitt says. “We keep a running list of fiction and nonfiction titles not selected that we may want to come back to in future months.”

The first book the club read was Steve Lopez’s “The Soloist.” Other past selections have included Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake;” Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild;” Sapphire’s “Push;” Lisa See’s “Shanghai Girls” and Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” The club’s selection of John Grogan’s “The Longest Trip Home” coincided with a Bookstore appearance by the author the same month.

Currently, the club is reading “Strength in What Remains” by Tracy Kidder.

The book club meetings begin at noon on the Bookstore’s second level and last about an hour. Complimentary coffee and cookies are served.

“We all discuss and offer opinions and observations,” Levitt says. “It is a very friendly and light-hearted environment.”

More than 70 people currently are on the book club’s listserv. If you would like to join the book club or sign up for the listserv, email Risa Levitt at

Those who RSVP for book club gatherings receive a Bookstore coupon for 20 percent off the price of that month’s featured selection.

Originally published on June 24, 2010