Parents sign up to discuss books with Hudnut

By Allison Hamburger

For the past 10 years, about 50 parents have had an annual tradition of joining President Thomas C. Hudnut to discuss literature. They each read a book that Hudnut has selected and then meet to socialize and discuss the book. And it is all for a good cause.

The book club began because of Hudnut’s remarks on his summer reading at the first Parent Association meeting of the year.

“People professed that to be interesting, and someone suggested that I should start a book club in the spring, so we started putting that into the auction that was part of the Annual Event,” Hudnut said.

The book club is now listed in the Party Book instead, which fundraises for financial aid.

The annual book meeting has been hosted at the Sokoloff family’s home (Teddy ’15, Lara ’12, Emma ’09, Zack ’07) every year. This year’s meeting, on May 12, centered around “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, which was very popular among the parents, which is not always the case, Hudnut said. Previous selections include “A Matter of Justice” by Charles Todd and “The Spies of Warsaw” by Alan Furst.

Co-chair of Party Book Beth Kleid (Emma Graham ’15, Tyler Graham ’15) attributes the book club’s yearly success to the book choice, but also to Hudnut’s reputation of leading the book club well. Party Book initially posted the event without Hudnut’s book selection, which still drew many people, she said. Kleid works with Hudnut and Sheryl Sokoloff to organize the event.

“He’s really great because he asks insightful questions, elicits great comments and involves people in the discussion,” Kleid said. Hudnut said he did not have much experience with book clubs prior to the first Harvard-Westlake one 10 years ago.

“I’ve never been an English teacher, never taken an English course in college. In fact, I don’t know anything about leading a book group,” Hudnut said. “But I’m able to lead a discussion about the book and place it in its historical or philosophical context.”

Sokoloff said that there are many parents who return to the club year after year.

“I think they like to come and see Tom in a very personal, smaller setting,” Sokoloff said. The Party Book was created two years ago and aims to build community, Kleid said.

“I think it’s one of most successful [Party Book events] because it brings a lot of different types of parents together … for an intellectual reason, and you also get to learn about people in a different way,” Kleid said. Hudnut hopes that parents enjoy the evening and the discussion.

“It’s a chance for all of us to get to know each other a little better in an informal setting, with a common topic for discussion, in a nice setting provided by some very thoughtful people,” Hudnut said.