SCM’s Reading Circle: How to Stay Together while Staying Apart

Let’s read together. A few suggestions to keep your mind active, and your community connected, when you’re shut-in.

SCM’s Reading Circle: How to Stay Together while Staying Apart

In her 2000 book examining psychological and philosophical ideals of love in modern society, Gloria Watkins (pen name: bell hooks) writes, “But many of us seek community solely to escape the fear of being alone. Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.”

Never in our lifetime has it been more necessary to be comfortable with being alone, at peace in solitude. In following national efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Santa Clara University took the unprecedented action of shuttering campus, and moving classes to the virtual realm in March. Quarantine efforts will last at least through the fall 2020 quarter.

In a video message to students, SCU President Kevin O’Brien, S.J., noted this uptick in the University’s reliance on virtual communication. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said, as we practice social distancing. “But it’s very hard. Because more than ever in these challenging times, we need each other…these times can be especially lonely in an age when there is already too much social isolation.”

If there is a silver lining to be found in this situation, it’s that we live during a time of profound technological advancement. Current SCU students continue their studies virtually. SCU employees (this writer included) are extremely privileged to be able to work from their home computer. Families and friends can connect in the virtual realm, through free conferencing apps like Google Hangouts and paid ones like Zoom. And never has there been a better time to catch up on our reading—the best way to travel, meet new characters, and engage in interesting dialogue, all from the comfort of your couch.

To stay together while staying apart, Santa Clara Magazine, along with friends from around campus, has compiled a list of ways to read as a Bronco community.

Join the SCU Alumni Book Club

It’s free for Bronco staff, faculty, and students to join this virtual book club, which largely focuses on nonfiction and professional development books. “The impetus for starting an online book club was first to reach the more than 100,000 living alumni across the globe, especially those who do not live within our 30-plus regional structured communities called chapters,” says Alumni Relations project manager Maria von Massenhausen ’87, who runs the book club. “We wanted to offer an opportunity for life-long learning, as we also understand that our alumni expect their alma mater to continue to help them in the workplace beyond their time on campus.”

Platform: PBC Guru, which features a moderator to facilitate online chatter by posing questions and a discussion board instead of a traditional time-sensitive meet-up. This way alumni can participate whenever is convenient for them

The current book selection through October 8 is Just Mercy. Bryan Stevenson’s memoir revolves around one of his first cases representing a death row inmate who insisted on his innocence, and his work to establish the Equal Justice Initiative legal practice that defends those in need.

Thank a librarian

Many libraries may be physically closed but their virtual stacks remain endless. Check the website of your local county library branch for e-book and audio book access. The Santa Clara University Library website has a resource guide for operations FAQs during the campus shut-down. You can search e-books through OSCAR and stream videos for free through kanopy, including new documentaries and feature films like Midsommarand The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Santa Clara County Library District, for example, offers more than 100,000 titles to download onto your tablet or computer, along with music streaming, e-versions of newspapers and magazines, and even learning services like Rosetta Stone.

Read with Fr. O’Brien

What does a Jesuit priest reads for fun? No, not just the Bible—although he’d likely not object if you wanted to pick the good book up. After the holidays O’Brien offered the following list of spiritual classics, poetry, philosophical musings, and tomes on effective leadership. If you read one from this list, tell him what you thought by tweeting @kevinobriensj and tagging #KOBbookclub.

From the Magazine

Check out our own book reviews, interviews with alumni and other Mission campus authors at And tell us what you are reading @santaclaramag on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated, Sept. 4, 2020.

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