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48th Annual Conversation with Books

2012 Conversation with Books: January 23, 2012.
2012 Conversation with Books: January 23, 2012.
Photo by Rebecca Zenefski '10.

The banter is both serious and funny, and none of the panel members are aware of what the other will say about a book beforehand. Each person on stage, however, is always prepared to volley with a witty comeback.

On January 23, 2012, St. Catherine University’s popular “Conversation with Books” returns. The event, which allows book lovers to catch up on a season's worth of reading in one evening, will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Rauenhorst Hall, Coeur de Catherine on the St. Paul campus.

Some crowd favorites are returning as “conversation” panelists: Professor Emerita of English Catherine Lupori, Alumnae Relations Liaison Ruth Haag Brombach SP’60 and Judie Martens Flahavan SP’60.

“We don’t always agree, which the audience loves,” says Lupori.

During a “conversation,” each panel member takes a turn to provide a synopsis and an overall impression about a book. For example, at the 2010 event, Haag Brombach described Mudbound by Hillary Jordan as “shocking,” adding that “it had so much evil in it.” Lupori realized she was “abysmally ignorant about Liberia” after reading The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper.

In 1964, Jeanne Gelinas SP’54, an Alumnae Association board volunteer, called Lupori to ask if she would be interested in regularly exchanging thoughts about current fiction and nonfiction with a group of alumnae. Lupori, a devoted reader who started teaching at the University in 1951, loved the idea and said yes.

The event has since grown.

Lupori and her panelists — typically up to three other bibliophiles — now discuss almost a dozen books now, often contemporary fiction and almost always by women. Alumnae bring family members, best friends, coworkers, neighbors and book club members with them. “Conversation” draws more than 300 people to St. Kate's each January. Plus, there are spin-offs, including the Phoenix Conversation with Books.

"It's always hard to come up with your favorites," says Lupori, who often is asked that question.

Still, she is quick to name three authors — Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf — whose work has pushed her intellectually throughout the years.

2012 “Conversation with Books” list:


  • Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, Viking, 2011
  • Room by Emma Donoghue, Little, Brown and Company, 2010
  • The Girl in the Blue Beret: A Novel by Bobbie Ann Mason, Random House, Inc., New York, 2011
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, Harper Collins, 2011


  • The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
  • Never Say Die: the Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age by Susan Jacoby, Pantheon Books, 2011
  • The Paper Garden: An Artist [Begins Her Life’s Work] at 72 by Molly Peacock, Bloomsbury USA, 2010
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, 2010


  • My Memoir Dress by Marge Rogers Barrett '68, Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky, 2011

Buy your tickets today
Early bird rate: $25 per person ($28 each after January 19)
Book Club rate (5 or more people): $23
Students with valid ACTC ID: $10
Residents of Carondelet Village: $20

VIP tickets: $55 each, includes 5 p.m. dinner in the President’s Dining Room. These tickets are first come, first serve.

For more information, call Alumnae Relations at 651-690-6666 or visit the "Conversation with Books" webpage.

NOTE: "Conversation with Books" will be on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 if the weather is bad.

Nov. 9, 2011 by Pauline Oo

See also: Alumnae/i, Arts, Liberal Arts