LitClub:  Bradford Book Discussion Club
Shannondell at Valley Forge in Audubon, Pennsylvania

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THEY MEET IN THE ELEGANT  library of the Shannondell-at-Valley Forge retirement community—an apt setting for a group of devoted readers. Between fitness and sports, computer and art classes, a writing group and public affairs club, they still find time to hit the books. . . . We talked with club organizer Don Jacobs.

Don, you contacted us over a year ago when you were first asked to take over the group. You seemed unsure, but it looks like you're having a pretty good run.
Well, I had a wonderful mentor in Catherine who had been leading the groupthe club's been in existence for about 12 years now.

But, yes, it was daunting taking over...though, now, I'm having a lot of fun.

I'm also very grateful for our Activities Director, Brooke Bornman. She prints the posters (see photo), orders the books, sets up the library for our meetings...and generally makes my job easy and a lot more pleasurable.

How many are you?
We had 19 sign up for our first discussion; now we're up to 52, averaging 25 at a meeting.

There's also a second book club.
Yes, this is a very active community with lots to do (as you noted in the intro). The other group reads only nonfiction, and our group reads both fiction and nonfiction.

So tell us what you've been reading.
Here's our list from the past year:
Eternal Wonder
Me Before You
Madonnas of Leningrad
As the Crow Flies
Man in the White Sharkskin Suit
When the Emperor was Divine
Angels Fall
Light Between the Oceans
Portrait of a Spy
Little Way of Ruthie Leming
Good Earth
Life of Pi
Johnstown Flood

Any favorites?
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming—wonderful writing, wonderful story: about a real-life Philadelphia journalist who returns to his Louisiana hometown to be with his sister who is dying of cancer.

Portrait of a Spy—one of the members volunteered to lead. He was great and changed our format a bit because of the method he used to encourage participation.

The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit—very familiar to our group of seniors: the true story of a man who escaped Nasser's Egypt in 1963 and relocated his family in the U.S.

Any disappointments?
Possibly Angels Fall—I think our members like novels based on real events. With the exception of that one, all the books have been appreciated, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.

With so many people, how do you select your books?
Mostly by anonymous ballot, which I collect throughout the month by email or by walking the halls with my pocket notebook. We get 7 or 8 choices each month, and all must comply with certain ground rules: books should be...
   • available in paperback and ebook
   • reasonably priced
   • available in large print (if possible).

Also, we try not to have two books in a row with the same sort of subject.

What would you like us to take away knowing about you?
We're a great group, made up of very sociable and intelligent people. We're also a diverse community with pretty much equal balance among religious groups. And there are now 5 men, including me...though we still can't seem to get our favorite mysteries to make the cut! But I'm hoping for a Grisham sometime soon.

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