In partnership with the Lebanon County Library Association, LebTown is proud to introduce “Library Letters,” a series of columns about the programming, people, and possibilities offered by libraries around the county.

Today’s letter is from Maureen Bentz, Interim Director of the Vernon and Doris Bishop Library at Lebanon Valley College.

Summer reading is not just for the kids. This summer, for the first time ever, you can enjoy the Lebanon Valley College Faculty Book Reviews presented by the Pennsylvania Chautauqua from the comfort of your own home each Tuesday at 10 a.m., now through August 11. Due to COVID-19, these reviews will be available online. To get access to this programming links will be posted on the Pennsylvania Chautauqua Facebook page.

The Chautauqua’s mission is to advance literary, scientific, intellectual, physical, and social welfare through the promotion of cultural and religious activity, recreation, and entertainment. LVC has been tied to the Chautauqua since it was organized in 1892. Today that connection continues with these book reviews.

So, what are they like? Dr. Owen Moe, professor emeritus of chemistry, has presented for seven years and said, “It’s going to be very different this year because of Zoom. I’m curious to see how this is going to go. Normally, these sessions are held in person at the Hall of Philosophy​, which is a quaint historic building. Typically, there are 80 or so in attendance.”

Moe kicks off the series with Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. This book has won many awards including the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft, Parkman, Los Angeles Times (biography), Lincoln, Plutarch, and Christopher. It was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Time.

The title was selected by Moe prior to the national unrest and Black Lives Matters protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Moe suggests that Douglass’ battle to achieve freedom informs the context of Black Lives Matter. “I think the book will be quite relevant to BLM in that a lot of the struggles that Douglass and other black people went through in the 19th century are still here today and are still being fought.”

As a bit of a preview, Moe revealed, “On the first slide of my power point, I have quote from the book which basically says that history repeats itself: ‘In a pattern so old and agonizing, history once again gives profound change, while racism waits in the wings and takes it back.’ They made gains such as emancipation during the Civil War, and gaining the right to vote, but racism kept coming back and negating the gains.”

Moe is quick to point out that Douglass’ life is an example of strength and never succumbing to the adversity of racism: “He had a resilience that kept him going. I wish the outcome had been better, but it wasn’t. What followed was decades and decades of Jim Crow laws. It’s an agonizing struggle, you think you have gains and then… the power of racism is very strong. It takes a lot of resilience not to give up.”

Moe’s review of this timely biography is just one of nine reviews of diverse books you can enjoy as part of this series. But these reviews are not just for passive listeners: be sure to bring your questions and join in thoughtful literary conversation. I’ve been told the Q&A portion at the end is the best part.

Additional questions about these book reviews and other programming at the Pennsylvania Chautauqua can be emailed to or call (717)-964-1830.


  • June 16
    Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight reviewed by Owen Moe (Chemistry)
  • June 23
  • June 30
    Cosmos by Carl Sagan reviewed by Keith Veenhuizen (Physics)
  • July 7
    Code Girls: the Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy reviewed by Kevin Pry (English) 
  • July 14
    Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut reviewed by Andrew Owen (Sociology) 
  • July 21
    The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell that Changes the Course of Medicine by Donna Jackson Nakazawa reviewed by Stacy Goodman (Biology) 
  • July 28
    The Rationing by Charles Wheelan reviewed by Lori Thomas (Exercise Science) 
  • August 4
    Irony and Outrage: The Polarized Landscape of Rage, Fear, and Laughter in the United States by Dannagal Goldthwaite Young reviewed by Diane Johnson (History and Political Science) 
  • August 11
    Morphing Intelligence: From IQ Measurement to Artificial Brains by Catherine Malabou reviewed by Jeff Robbins (Religion)

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