Book club explores Pulitzer Prize winning book

Photo courtesy of RCNJ Library, Instagram

In college, reading and pleasure are not exactly synonymous. For many students that spend hours reading case reports or monotonous textbooks, the idea of additional reading can seem reprehensible.

Reading for pleasure, however, can actually be enjoyable, and will help students further their knowledge in a more relaxed, and even fun way.

To help Ramapo’s College’s community engage in a more positive reading experience and diversify their perspectives, librarians at the George T. Potter Library hold a book club each semester. Open to faculty, staff and students, the library’s book club is a great way for members to find a passion for reading and also expand their literary horizons.

“It’s open to pretty much everyone in the campus community, so it’s nice to have sort of everyone talk on the same level,” said System and Web Development Librarian Samantha Wittenburg. Wittenburg, along with Interlibrary Loan, Reference & Instruction Librarian Katie Cohen, are in charge of running the library’s book club. “It’s just really interesting to hear everyone’s different perspectives.”

This semester, members of the book club will have the pleasure of reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Interpreter of Maladies,” by Jhumpa Lahiri. "Interpreter of Maladies" is a collection of nine short stories that focus on the lives of characters from Indian descent.

“She writes a lot about the South Asian Diaspora,” said Wittenburg, “So the different stories touch on different aspects of that.”

In accordance with the Year of the Asia and the Pacific, the librarians collaborated with the Roukema Center for International Education to select a book that would go along with the theme.

“We try to find an author that is from that region that is also writing about the region,” said Hillary Westgate, Reference, Instruction, and Outreach Librarian. “It’s one of the many ways to participate in the year of the Asia and the Pacific.”

Westgate emphasized that they try to “mix it up” every semester by introducing members to new perspectives, varying the author’s gender, backgrounds and experience. Wittenberg added that they also try to diversify the format, with past books of focus ranging from a young adult novel, to a collection of journalistic essays.

“This format [short stories] is one of my favorites,” said Wittenburg.

Even students that enjoy reading a good book may find the idea of adding a book club onto their already intimidating schedules difficult to manage. The librarians recognize that students have busy lives; therefore, they select books each semester that are easier to manage and not too extensive.

“We try and not to pick really long titles,” said Wittenburg, “Usually under 350 pages because this is additional reading for what people may already be assigned.”

The book club will meet three times throughout the semester, with the first meeting being Oct. 18 from 1:10-2:00 p.m. Each meeting will have specific chapter assignments and a set of discussion questions that Wittenburg and Cohen come up with that will promote new ways of thinking and discussion among members.

“We have snacks, tea and hot chocolate at the meetings so it’s nice and relaxed,” said Westgate. “It’s supposed to be kind of informal.”

The first 30 students to sign up for the book club will receive a free copy of “Interpreter of Maladies.” To join or for more information, contact Wittenberg ( and Cohen (