Books Bring People Together

3 min read

By Lisa Joyce, acquisitions editor, Thorndike Press |

“I live with some of the most interesting people, but never know until I read their obituary.” I always remember this comment from a senior patron. As the Outreach Librarian at Portland Public Library (Maine) for nearly 25 years, I spent a great deal of time making deliveries at a senior residence and speaking with patrons.

When I heard that comment, I decided to develop a book group program to help residents get to know each other and develop a stronger sense of community. It turned out to be a great success, an easy sell to outside funders, as a program that has a long life. I am proud to announce Thorndike Press has officially adopted the program that gave me so many memories and introduced me to so many great friends for over 30 years.

The Thorndike Press Senior Book Group program is essentially a book group “in-a-box.” The idea is to take this program to senior living situations to help residents get to know each other and develop a stronger sense of community. It provides the perfect chance to talk about life experiences with fellow residents in an informal moderated situation.

Book groups can be intimidating for library staff, but not this one. Thorndike provides multiple titles to choose from, a handbook for setting up the group that includes funding ideas, and all the resources needed to lead the group. Library staff, volunteers, or facility staff can facilitate the program.

Our titles are chosen with seniors in mind and the discussion questions are more experiential in nature than text-based. An example from the discussion guide for A Man Called Ove is:

Ove meets his match with the scruffy, homeless cat who attaches himself to Ove on his daily rounds and slowly becomes a member of Ove’s household and circle of care. Why do you think animals are often able to break through to people who are difficult to reach? Have you had an animal in your life that gave you comfort and love through a challenging time?

This is a question anyone can answer. Even if they haven’t read the book, they can participate which is the goal.

In addition to discussion questions, Thorndike Senior Book Group Guides include:

  • phonetic pronunciation of titles and author names
  • author biographies
  • book summary
  • character list
  • links to interviews, podcasts, and other related content
  • facilitator notes: the reasons why to read
  • reflection questions
  • resources for the blind

I’ve enjoyed creating these guides, which I feel help to develop community in what can sometimes be a transient situation. If you’re interested in the Thorndike Press Senior Book Group program and learning more about titles and guides available, contact your rep for details >>

About the Author

Lisa Joyce, acquisitions editor for Thorndike Press, entered publishing after a 25 year career as a public librarian. She goes to bed every night terrified that her ”TBR” pile will crush her while she sleeps, but it doesn’t stop her from adding to it daily.


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