Kathy McAnelly Schwartz '79
What inspired you to sign up for the book club?
My days as a student at Kinkaid nourished my love of reading books, so it seemed like the perfect place to join a book club as an adult. My appreciation of reading was greatly encouraged by my time spent with the late Callie Law, my English teacher of two years. In her class on Southern authors, she opened a whole new world of themes, character progression, literary traditions and more. She had a talent for making these authors relevant to students living in a different time. For example, given my pre-disposition to write in multi-colored ink, Ms. Law once told our class in jest that William Faulkner (with his interest in idiosyncratic characters) would have had a field day writing about me and my high school quirks. It got a good laugh.
What is your favorite book you have read and discussed thus far?
We recently finished a novel that has become one of my all-time favorites: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It describes a member of the nobility during the Russian Revolution whose life is radically changed after he is sentenced to house arrest in Moscow’s finest hotel for the remainder of his days. Without giving away too much of the plot of this entertaining book, the protagonist sets out to “master his circumstances” instead of the opposite.
Also, I am enjoying the variety of genres we undertake. Earlier this year, we read an autobiography: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover and The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. The latter sounds like a self-help book but it is actually about the psychology and science behind our habits and changing them.
Have you connected with any new alumni through the book club?
Yes, I have already met quite a few alumni online that I would not have met otherwise. An added benefit is that you have the opportunity to talk about different subjects than those you typically discuss at an alumni event. The subjects change with each book.
Why do you think this is a beneficial service offered to alumni?
I think a book club is a great way to connect with alumni regardless of where they are in the world. It takes advantage of the digital connections now available to all of us. Whether you are in Houston, New York, London or elsewhere, you can easily be part of this alumni activity.
Why would you encourage alumni to sign up and participate?
I encourage anyone who likes to read to join us. It will add a new dimension to your reading life. For example, with A Gentlemen in Moscow, in addition to discussing plot and theme, we also talked about Russian history, culture – even food and wine! One member of the group, Kathy Jewell Wommack ’74, had just returned from the Hotel Metropol where the book took place and was able to give us first-hand information.
Are you a member of any other book clubs?
I have tried other book clubs but this one appeals to me because it takes place entirely online and you can participate on your own schedule. The fact that it is an easy way to connect with like-minded Kinkaid alumni is a huge bonus!
Have you enjoyed being a part of the book selection process?
I have enjoyed being part of the process of selecting new books. It makes me think more methodically about how I choose books in general. I tend to read whatever gets my attention, either from word of mouth or from the New York Times Book Review. Voting on new books has made me consider new genres and has broadened the types of books I decide to read.
What type of book are you looking forward to reading in the future?
By the time this goes to print, the book club will have already decided between reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, The Telomere Effect by Elissa Eppel and Elizabeth Blackburn or The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú. Personally, I am hoping Bad Blood is our next choice. I have followed this ongoing story in the news and look forward to learning more about it. Perhaps the book club will discuss the upcoming movie someday, too.