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.

JUNE 5: ETHEL ROSENBERG AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY, BY ANNE SEBBA

In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple with two young sons, were led separately from their prison cells on Death Row and electrocuted moments apart. Both had been convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the US government was aware that the evidence against Ethel was shaky at best and based on the perjury of her own brother. This book is the first to focus on one half of that couple in more than thirty years, and much new evidence has surfaced since then. Ethel was a bright girl who might have fulfilled her personal dream of becoming an opera singer, but instead found herself struggling with the social mores of the 1950’s. She longed to be a good wife and perfect mother, while battling the political paranoia of the McCarthy era, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and a mother who never valued her. Because of her profound love for and loyalty to her husband, she refused to incriminate him, despite government pressure on her to do so. Instead, she courageously faced the death penalty for a crime she hadn’t committed, orphaning her children. Seventy years after her trial, this is the first time Ethel’s story has been told with the full use of the dramatic and tragic prison letters she exchanged with her husband, her lawyer and her psychotherapist over a three-year period, two of them in solitary confinement. Hers is the resonant story of what happens when a government motivated by fear tramples on the rights of its citizens.

JULY 10: STOCKHOLM, BY NOA YEDLIN

Avishay is up for the Nobel Prize for Economics. There’s just one problem—he’s dead. His four closest friends agree that the well-earned prize must stay within his grasp, and so conspire to conceal Avishay’s corpse until the committee’s announcement. The potential of a glorious legacy for their late friend – and by extension, for them all – is only a mere eight days away. What could go wrong?

AUGUST 14: AMERICAN WOMAN: THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE MODERN FIRST LADY, FROM HILLARY CLINTON TO JILL BIDEN, BY KATIE ROGERS

Since the Clinton era, shifts in media, politics, and pop culture have all redefined expectations of First Ladies, even as the boundaries set upon them have often remained anachronistic. With sharp insights and dozens of firsthand interviews with major players in the Biden, Obama, Trump, Bush, and Clinton orbits, including Jill Biden and Hillary Clinton, New York Times White House correspondent Katie Rogers traces the evolution of the role of the twenty-first-century First Lady from a ceremonial figurehead to a powerful political operator, which culminates in the tenure of First Lady Jill Biden.

SEPTEMBER 11: ANITA DE MONTE LAUGHS LAST, BY XOCHITL GONZALEZ

Anita de Monte, a rising star in the art world, is found dead in New York City in 1985; her tragic death is the talk of the town. Until it isn’t. By 1998 Anita’s name has been all but forgotten―certainly by the time Raquel, a third-year art history student is preparing her final thesis. On College Hill, surrounded by privileged students whose futures are already paved out for them, Raquel feels like an outsider. Students of color, like her, are the minority there, and the pressure to work twice as hard for the same opportunities is no secret. But when Raquel becomes romantically involved with a well-connected older art student, she finds herself unexpectedly rising up the social ranks. As she attempts to straddle both worlds, she stumbles upon Anita’s story, raising questions about the dynamics of her own relationship, which eerily mirrors that of the forgotten artist. Moving back and forth through time and told from the perspectives of both women, Anita de Monte Laughs Last is a propulsive, witty examination of power, love, and art, daring to ask who gets to be remembered and who is left behind in the rarefied world of the elite.

Evening Book Group

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

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

MAY 21: HOUSEKEEPING, BY MARILYNNE ROBINSON

A modern classic, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial lake in the Far West, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

JUNE 18: THE SWIMMERS, BY JULIE OTSUKA

The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief. One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice’s estranged daughter, reentering her mother’s life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline.

JULY 16: THE NAME OF THE ROSE, BY UMBERTO ECO

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, “The Name of the Rose” is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.

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