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Book Club

Ages 18+

Looking for your next great read? Join our book groups and get in on thought-provoking discussion in the warm company of the JCCSF community.

  • Arts & Ideas
woman reading book

Together, we love sharing ideas — so come ready for eye-opening conversations. Book genres and topics vary. All will strengthen your sense of togetherness with others in the JCCSF community in a social and relaxed setting.

 

Afternoon Book Group

We’re excited to re-start our afternoon book club! The afternoon book group met for over ten years and was on hiatus during the pandemic, but we’re back! The group will continue to read a variety of fiction and nonfiction books chosen by the members.

Interested? Please connect with Shiva Schulz, Director of Lifelong Learning, at sschulz@jccsf.org or call 415-292-1260 to get on the list to join.  

2nd Wednesday of the month unless noted • 2:45 – 4:15 pm at JCCSF.

NOVEMBER 9: OH WILLIAM!, by ELIZABETH STROUT

Strout’s iconic heroine Lucy Barton recounts her complex, tender relationship with William, her first husband and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidant. Lucy is a writer, but her ex-husband, William, remains a hard man to read. William, she confesses, has always been a mystery. Another mystery is why the two have remained connected after all these years. They just are. So Lucy is both surprised and not surprised when William asks her to join him on a trip to investigate a recently uncovered family secret–one of those secrets that rearrange everything we think we know about the people closest to us. 

(CANCELLED) DECEMBER 14: GREY BEES, by ANDREY KURKOV

Sergey Sergeich, a 49-year-old safety inspector-turned-beekeeper, wants little more than to help his bees collect their pollen in peace. But Sergey lives in Ukraine, where a lukewarm war of sporadic violence and constant propaganda has been dragging on for years. His simple mission on behalf of his bees leads him through some the hottest spots of the ongoing conflict, putting him in contact with combatants and civilians on both sides of the battle lines: loyalists, separatists, Russian occupiers, and Crimean Tatars. Grey Bees is as timely as the author’s Ukraine Diaries were in 2014 but treats the unfolding crisis in a more imaginative way, with a pinch of Kurkov’s signature humor. Who better than Ukraine’s most famous novelist – who writes in Russian – to illuminate and present a balanced portrait of this most bewildering of modern conflicts? 

JANUARY 11: THE LAST WHITE MAN – A NOVEL, by MOHSIN HAMID

One morning, a man wakes up to find himself transformed. Overnight, Anders’s skin has turned dark, and the reflection in the mirror seems a stranger to him. At first he shares his secret only with Oona, an old friend turned new lover. Soon, reports of similar events begin to surface. Across the land, people are awakening in new incarnations, uncertain how their neighbors, friends, and family will greet them. Some see the transformations as the long-dreaded overturning of the established order that must be resisted to a bitter end. In many, like Anders’s father and Oona’s mother, a sense of profound loss and unease wars with profound love. As the bond between Anders and Oona deepens, change takes on a different shading: a chance at a kind of rebirth–an opportunity to see ourselves, face to face, anew.
In Mohsin Hamid’s “lyrical and urgent” prose (O Magazine), The Last White Man powerfully uplifts our capacity for empathy and the transcendence over bigotry, fear, and anger it can achieve. 

FEBRUARY 8: THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY, by EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment. 

MARCH 8: THE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT, by MAGGIE O’FARRELL

Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and to devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Moderna and Regio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.

Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?

As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance. 

Evening Book Group

3rd Tuesday of the month unless noted • 7:30 – 8:30 pm

The Evening Book Club is now meeting on Zoom. To join the Evening Book Group, please contact Shiva Schulz at sschulz@jccsf.org.

FEBRUARY 21: FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES BY CHARLES BLOW

Charles M. Blow’s mother was a fiercely driven woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, and a job plucking poultry at a factory near their segregated Louisiana town, where slavery’s legacy felt close. When her philandering husband finally pushed her over the edge, she fired a pistol at his fleeing back, missing every shot, thanks to “love that blurred her vision and bent the barrel.” Charles was the baby of the family, fiercely attached to his “do-right” mother. Until one day that divided his life into Before and After—the day an older cousin took advantage of the young boy. The story of how Charles escaped that world to become one of America’s most innovative and respected public figures is a stirring, redemptive journey that works its way into the deepest chambers of the heart.

MARCH 21: GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER BY KURT VONNEGUT

Eliot Rosewater—drunk, volunteer fireman, and President of the fabulously rich Rosewater Foundation—is about to attempt a noble experiment with human nature . . . with a little help from writer Kilgore Trout. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is Kurt Vonnegut’s funniest satire, an etched-in-acid portrayal of the greed, hypocrisy, and follies of the flesh we are all heir to.

APRIL 18: RULES OF CIVILITY BY AMOR TOWLES

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.

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