Rutgers Book Club of NYC

BooksThe Rutgers Book Club of NYC has been suspended indefinitely.

2009 theme: Books from 1950 – present. We read:

Post Office by Charles Bukowski; A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips; Rabbit, Run by John Updike; Short Stories by John Cheever; Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut; Deliverance by James Dickey; The Ponder Heart by Eudora Welty.

2008: Books we never read or re-read and wish we had.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; 1984 by George Orwell; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; Dubliners by James Joyce;  The Prince by Nicolò Machiavelli;  Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates; Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

2007: The BRIC Countries (Brazil, Russia, India & China)

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Tent of Miracles by Jorge Amado.  Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang. English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee. “Notes From the Underground, White NightsandA Gentle Creature” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Daughter of Persia by Sattareh Farman Farmaian and Dona Munker. “Gooseberries,” “Oysters” and “The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov. Snow by Orhan Pamuk. The Compromise by Sergei Dovlatov.

2006: Post 9/11

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad.  The Namesake: A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri.  Things Fall Apart: A Novel by Chinua Achebe. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami. July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Waterfront by Phillip Lopate.

Rutgers Book Club of NYC revels at the Algonquin Hotel

From Crain’s New York Business

Groups focus on book value;
Locals take reading clubs beyond Oprah, bonding over career growth, literature, the immigrant experience

LENGTH: 859 words

By day, Andy Palacio is an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn. By night, he reads books about the immigrant experience, looking forward to the one precious night a month he can discuss them with kindred spirits.

While book clubs in most of the country follow a familiar pattern–people gather to chat about the latest best-seller or Oprah-recommended tome–book clubs in New York City focus on themes that are as distinctive and varied as New Yorkers themselves.

Want high-brow? There’s a club devoted exclusively to studying James Joyce’s dense, complicated Ulysses. Looking for an all-female sci-fi/fantasy book club? New York’s got one. Trying to get ahead in the rat race? Company-sponsored clubs hope to give their employees an edge.

Mr. Palacio, whose parents emigrated from Colombia when he was a baby, discovered in his own reading that immigrants from various nations had remarkably similar stories to tell. The group he started more than two years ago explores issues surrounding assimilation and conflicts between parents from the old country and their children born in the United States.

The group has found a wealth of relevant material, including the novels The Namesake, about a family that immigrated to Cambridge, Mass., from Calcutta in the 1970s; The Kite Runner, concerning a young man who moves to the United States from Afghanistan and then moves back again; and Native Speaker, about the son of Korean immigrants.

Taking advantage of the city’s cultural diversity, the group meets in restaurants whose fare corresponds to the ethnicities of the authors being discussed. Of the 30 people in the group, about six attend each session. The members work in a variety of fields, including finance, law and the nonprofit sector.

“New York, being full of immigrants, is a great city to have a group like this,” Mr. Palacio says. “But we also get people who aren’t immigrants or children of immigrants. They’re just interested in the topic.”

Literary New Yorkers have a soul mate in Barbara Finkelstein, organizer of a book club made up of Rutgers University alumni.

Ms. Finkelstein, a Web content provider for IBM who lives in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, started her group because she couldn’t find any clubs in her neighborhood whose members were reading the types of less-mainstream books in which she was interested. The group initially tackled books that it deemed relevant to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including The Bookseller of Kabul and Things Fall Apart, a classic of African literature. Now, the club is reading books from Brazil, Russia, India and China.

“The book club is a great thing for me, because it forces me to read books I would never read otherwise,” says Ms. Finkelstein, a published author who usually reads books about 17th-century England.

Of course, for many, book clubs merely serve the traditional purpose of being a fun social outlet.

Sarah Hewitt read a lot when she was growing up. But after she became a lawyer, she never had much time for anything but law books until she made partner at a Manhattan firm. When her schedule opened up a bit, she took film classes, which she enjoyed, but she always wanted to do some serious reading.

Two years ago, Ms. Hewitt helped form a group that includes several high-powered businesswomen and professionals–one of them is an international financial executive at Citigroup. The club has read The Kite Runner as well as two books about historical China, The Good Earth and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, among others.

“I wanted to broaden my life,” says Ms. Hewitt. “It was also a chance to connect with my friends.”

Ulterior motives

Some clubs serve as a pretext for more typical after-work gatherings. Robert Haynes-Peterson’s group primarily comprises people employed by a Manhattan-based publisher of men’s and women’s fashion magazines; it bills itself as “The Drinking Club With a Reading Problem.” When the members of the club get together, people spend a portion of their time doing the sort of griping that often occurs when colleagues go out for drinks.

Even workaholic New York City accountants find an outlet in book clubs, discussing books on how to get ahead.

Three months ago, Lynn Lagomarsino, a partner at J.H. Cohn who runs the firm’s women’s support program, started a club. Of the 150 female accountants in the firm, which has offices throughout the New York area, 33 signed up. They are committed to reading books that will help them in both their business and their personal lives.

Their first book, which they discussed in smaller groups during weekly conference calls, was Leading from the Front, by two female Marines. The next book will be about negotiating skills.

CPA firm Weiser also has set up a business-book program for its accountants. Patrick Heeney, a newly married audit supervisor, says the reading has helped him in some surprising ways.

Reading Crucial Conversations has enabled him to calmly settle arguments with his wife. She wanted to go to Italy for their first vacation; he thought that would be too expensive, given their hefty wedding bills. They agreed on a cruise to Bermuda.

COMMENTS? [He is no longer with the paper.]


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