Alumni book club mixes good reads, good conversation

The idea was simple: create a digital learning space where Huskies could connect over a good book, no matter where they lived. It was also easy: Alumni could sign up at any time; read everything or skip a selection; follow or not follow reading timelines and questions to consider for the forum.

In fall 2019, UWAA launched an online book club in partnership with UW Libraries. Curated titles would reflect timely topics and explore multiple genres—fiction and non-fiction, memoir and history, emerging writers and established authors. Intermittently, the club could vote on what they wanted to read next.

To date, more than 1,600 readers have joined, representing alumni from every college and school across all three campuses. Grad years range from 1947 to 2020, and more than one-third live outside of the Puget Sound.

What drew them to the program? Marilyn Conover Watt, ’76, ’81: “My husband and I joined for the opportunity to read, review and discuss interesting books with each other and our fellow Huskies… so often we think of reading as a solo activity, but with discussion it improves and elevates the experience.”

Three books and six months into the burgeoning Book Club and the pandemic changed the world. Suddenly, everyone was looking for ways to connect virtually and the Book Club expanded its conversations. University Book Store was brought into the editorial planning mix. Zoom conversations with fellow readers, as well as deep dives with UW faculty and alumni on book themes, strengthened the readings while forging a stronger sense of community.

Danielle Higa ’07 echoed that sentiment. “It connects people through important topics and stories. The discussion forums are extremely valuable and I appreciate the opportunity to vote for the next book, plus it was fun seeing what others like too.”

Over the past six months, topics explored have included an architect’s reflection on the power of space and home (“A Gentleman in Moscow”), a historian’s view on the Cold War front in Africa (“American Spy”), and a realtor’s insight on redlining in Seattle (“The Color of Law”). Next up? UW experts tackle the science behind time travel and examine the effects of generational trauma in conjunction with our reading of “Kindred.”

To quote Marilyn again, “We’ve been surprised about how fun it is to read a book at the same time and discuss it at home with just each other, and even more so with sharing with the group. It adds so much to the reading experience. The book club fits perfectly with our desire for lifetime learning.” There’s always room for more readers.

2021 reading list

Read with us, then hear from the author! Introducing the next three UW Alumni Book Club selections. UWAA members and registered book club participants have access to discounts for these three Seattle Arts & Lectures authors. All titles are available at University Book Store; UWAA member discount applies.

Find out more about the UW Alumni Book Club, including current programs and past selections at