Not just any book, but The Neighborhood, by Peter Lovenheim. The nonfiction is based on a popular New York Times Op-Ed piece and is described as a quirky, heartfelt account of one man’s quest to meet his neighbors and find a sense of community.
The story starts with a brutal murder-suicide in Lovenheim’s Rochester, New York, neighborhood. He observes that his neighbors are strangers to each other and decides to do something about it.
Lovenheim began a search to meet and get to know his neighbors. But he did more than just introduce himself. He asked, ever so politely, if he could sleep over.
With an open mind and a curious spirit, Lovenheim takes us inside the homes, minds, and hearts of his neighbors and asks a thought-provoking question: Do neighborhoods still matter—and is something lost when we live as strangers next door?
His novel was the winner of a Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the First Annual Zócalo Public Square Book Prize (https://peterlovenheim.com/books/in-the-neighborhood/).
“I thought the book club might be a good way to meet my neighbors here in our little outpost by the park,” Spiess said.
“I have knocked on the doors of every house on Villa View, Villa Grove and Villa Woods, delivered a copy of the book and extended a personal invitation to the members of our 54 households,” Spiess said, noting that the Will Rogers neighborhood book clue will have its inaugural meeting April 4.
The author will join the Will Roger group by Zoom, which will meet at Spiess’ house. “I will serve light refreshments made by me and a few local Palisades small businesses, including sweet treats from Betty Morin’s new Betts Bakes,” Spiess said.
The story of how the Palisadian discovered the book is also fascinating. “Peter is a friend of my aunt and uncle who live in Ithaca, New York,” she said.
When Lovenheim was on a book tour and in Cleveland, he made a point to visit Spiess’ grandmother, who is 100, and also an avid reader and a school librarian.
Her grandmother recommended the book to her.
“Incidentally, my grandmother befriended her neighbors in Beachwood, Ohio, by holding story hours for the neighborhood kids,” Spiess said. “This was a long time ago—in the mid-80s, but I think it’s cool that we’ve been connecting people through books!”
Lovenheim holds a degree in journalism from Boston University and in law from Cornell Law School. He teaches narrative non-fiction at The Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
His articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Parade, Moment magazine and the Washington Post.
(Editor’s note: CTN praises Spiess for finding a creative and fun way to meet her neighbors. )