Books

The Bucks County Community College Book Discussion Group, which first began talking about titles on the Newtown campus in 1988, has shifted its monthly meetings to an online format. The virtual gatherings now take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month during the academic year using the Zoom web-conferencing tool.

Michael Hennessey, the literature professor who convenes the meetings, says although the pivot was necessary due to campus closures amid the ongoing pandemic, group members remain vibrantly involved and eager to share their love of reading.

“The group has many deep thinkers interested in sustained inquiry about the state of humanity, and in learning about other cultures and how different people think,” said Hennessey, who has led the group discussions for more than two decades. “We welcome newcomers because we are interested in new perspectives.”

Because of the online format, a limited number of spaces are available each month. If you are interested in joining a discussion, please contact Prof. Hennessey at michael.hennessey@bucks.edu at least a week in advance of the date.

The Book Discussion Group has chosen the following titles through June.

- February 11 (register by February 4) - The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (352 pages). Fiction. The Vignes twins grew up inseparable in the 1960s in a small Louisiana town reserved for black residents with light skin. Stella and Desiree dream of lives beyond the lynching of their father and housekeeping for white people, like their mother does. When they flee to New Orleans as teens, Stella discovers she can pass as white, and begins the fracture that will forever separate the twins. Told in flashbacks and alternating points of view, the novel asks what is personal identity, if not your past.

- March 11 (register by March 4) - Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (448 pages). Fiction. The unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drug epidemic is waiting in the wings. A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family rarely seen in fiction.

- April 8 (register by April 1) - Hamnet By Maggie O’Farrell (322 pages). Fiction. A bold feat of imagination and empathy, this novel gives flesh and feeling to a historical mystery: how the death of Shakespeare’s 11-year-old son Hamnet in 1596 may have shaped his play “Hamlet” a few years later. O’Farrell conjures with sensual vividness the world of the playwright’s hometown: the tang of new leather in his father’s glove shop; the scent of apples in the storage shed where he first kisses Agnes, the farmer’s daughter who becomes his wife; and, not least, the devastation that befalls her when she cannot save her son from the plague.

- May 13 (register by May 6) - The Mercies by Koran Millwood Hargrave (352 pages). Fiction. After the men in an Arctic Norwegian town are wiped out by a terrible storm, the women must survive a sinister threat in this 1600s parable of a world gone mad. Inspired by the real events of the Norway’s Vardø storm in 1617 and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.

- June 10 (register by June 3) - The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (527 pages + notes). Nonfiction. In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this massive migration to the migrations of other peoples in history.

At the June 10 meeting, attendees will also suggest, discuss, debate and choose titles for the September to December fall meeting schedule.

Founded in 1988, the Bucks County Community College Book Discussion Group meets from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month from September to June. For more information, contact Michael Hennessey at Michael.Hennessey@bucks.edu.

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