In January of 2000, the Kelly Writers House launched the online book groups program for alumni and Penn families. The program was a spin-off of Alumverse, an online poetry discussion group of more than 150 alumni conducted entirely via email from January to June 1996. Both Alumverse and the Book Groups program were conceived by Writers House Faculty Director and Kelly Professor of English Al Filreis. "We wanted to create a learning community for alumni who wouldn't be able to be involved otherwise," Al said upon the launch of the book groups program.

Nine years later, after more than forty successful discussion groups with topics ranging from Shakespeare to the Warsaw ghetto uprising to the associations between mathematics and music, Wharton alumnus and Penn parent David Roberts has enabled us to expand and enhance our program. David was an enthusiastic participant in Al Filreis' 2006 discussion group on Primo Levi's The Periodic Table. He left the month-long experience with not only a deep understanding of Primo Levi's work, but a passion for the kind of intellectual cameraderie and fulfillment that came with the experience. Because of David's ongoing support, we are now able to offer a dynamic, new line-up of groups each academic year. We now feature both month-long discussions that cover more material in addition to our ten-day "close reading" groups on singular short stories or pairs of poems. In 2012, we opened up our discussion groups for all in the Writers House community to participate.

The online book groups program is coordinated by Lily Applebaum, who works as the Assistant to the Faculty Director at the Kelly Writers House. For more information, please email Lily at whbook@writing.upenn.edu or call 215-573-4843.