Book Recs for Nursing Home Book Club
May 15, 2014 4:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm a social worker at a skilled nursing facility, and one of my residents has asked if we could start a book club. I'm trying to come up with a list of books that they can vote on to decide what we read first, and am looking for suggestions.

There are just a few parameters:

1) The residents are elderly, and most are at least somewhat conservative. I don't want to be overly cautious about content, but at the same time we're just starting out, so I guess I do kind of want to err on the side of tamer material that hopefully won't scandalize them. I would also like to try to offer mostly upbeat options, although some heavier material would also be okay.

2) If possible, books that have been available in paperback for a while would be best, since I'd like to keep the cost down as much as possible.

Other than that, I'm pretty much open to any ideas. Fiction or non-fiction, mystery, fantasy, whatever!
posted by odayoday to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you located? Go talk to your local library -- mine has like... "book club sets" of many books, which comes with something like 10 copies of the book and discussion guides and stuff. They're already curated as books that are good for book clubs, and I'm sure the librarians would help meet your other criteria.
posted by brainmouse at 4:06 PM on May 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, that's a great idea! I'm in Austin, and my local library is awesome.
posted by odayoday at 4:06 PM on May 15, 2014

I'd still love to hear ideas, though!
posted by odayoday at 4:09 PM on May 15, 2014

My book club has recently enjoyed
--Light Between Two Oceans
--The Postmistress
--Call the Midwife
--State of Wonder

I don't know if your audience would like that #1-3 are all set around WWII-ish, surely that wouldn't put them off? We're a young crowd, so the period settings of 1-3 are charming too us.

My other recent faves involve illness and spouse death, which I'm thinking is not ideal for this group.
posted by parkerjackson at 4:29 PM on May 15, 2014

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is funny and what scandal there is won't be surprising to people who've lived awhile. I don't know what the demographics are where you live, but I loved How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston -- it could be interesting to discuss both the contributors experiences and people's recollections of childhood. Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Joffrey reminded my great-aunt of her childhood in India -- YMMV.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:37 PM on May 15, 2014

I would recommend Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
posted by barnoley at 5:09 PM on May 15, 2014

My mother is a senior and a member of her Church`s bookclub. The other members range in age from approximately 50 to 90 years. Two novels that were big hits in the group were The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, and In Them Days by Isobel Warren. The latter book is about a feminist around the end of world war one in her small Canadian town, and my mother found it very easy to relate to. The other ladies in the club identified with much of what was in the story as well - that said, I do not know how well it would go over with male members.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:16 PM on May 15, 2014

I worked in nursing homes for years and I think the one thing that's missing is humor.

I'd scatter some Janet Evanovich, Gail Carriger and definitely some Terry Pratchett books in amongst the family stories - also some Martha Grimes' British pub mysteries.

Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters is a good place to start.

Our Spokane library downtown has a bookstore run by the Friends of the Library which sells paperbacks for 50 cents and exceptionally nice, coffee-table books for a dollar or two. That would be a good place to get a bookcase-full of good reading material of all sorts for very little money. And be sure to get some large-print books and some mostly-picture books - historical/travel/old-time TV, etc.

I'm happy that you're going to set this up. Life in a nursing home is so unbelievingly bland that the people who live there have to have an alternate universe to go to now and then. You might also consider picking up some books on tape from the library for those whose eyesight has failed them; also, the local Institute for the Blind can help with large, page-size magnifying glasses and other aids.

Ah, this is a good thing.
posted by aryma at 5:36 PM on May 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Dog On It mystery series is funny and something you can give to anyone without worrying about language, etc. William Kent Krueger's mysteries are serious but also family-friendly.

My grandmother loves biographies, and that might go over well for those who aren't into fiction. Her personal favorites are anything about the royal family and Tisha.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:18 PM on May 15, 2014

I'd look at Mary Doria Russell's "Dreamers of the Day" - it would be perfect!

Also, "Water for Elephants" is a very sweet story and a good book.
"The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller - dystopian future about a pilot and his dog.
"The Light at the End of the Ocean"
I think "Memoirs of a Geisha" was fairly conservative
Maybe "Wonder" by RJ Palacio - it's geared toward young adults but I loved it.
posted by mazienh at 8:06 PM on May 15, 2014

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!
posted by odayoday at 8:43 PM on May 15, 2014

A senior book club I know is LOVING David Sedaris right now. Something light and funny but not too simplistic.
posted by assenav at 12:48 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein.
Funny, sentimental, an easy read, appeals to both men and women.
posted by Ardea alba at 5:43 AM on May 16, 2014

The Mitford novels by Jan Karon were a huge hit with my mother. My father, by contrast, is happily burning through all the Horatio Hornblower books.

For a nursing home book club, I'd go with the Karon.
posted by suelac at 8:53 AM on May 16, 2014

The other members range in age from approximately 50 to 90 years. Two novels that were big hits in the group were The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling....

Which just goes to show you don't have to worry too much about being conservative - that is a book that has sex, drug use, crime, and just about every permutation of people screwing up you can think of! I found it to be an excellent novel, but very British which may or may not work for your group.

If you have a really disparate group I would suggest instigating a one month fiction/one month non-fiction schedule so everyone gets a chance to read a 'favourite' type of book.
posted by Megami at 10:49 AM on May 16, 2014

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