Happy Bookers Discussion Group

The Happy Bookers is Phillipsburg Library’s monthly book discussion group.  We meet on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m.   Newcomers are always welcome and no registration is required!  Call the library at 908-454-3712 for more information.

Next Meeting:
Wednesday, September 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Close to Shore
by Michael Capuzzo

Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shore brilliantly re-creates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore.

During the summer before the United States entered World War I, when ocean swimming was just becoming popular and luxurious Jersey Shore resorts were thriving as a chic play land for an opulent yet still innocent era’s new leisure class, Americans were abruptly introduced to the terror of sharks. In July 1916 a lone Great White left its usual deep-ocean habitat and headed in the direction of the New Jersey shoreline. There, near the towns of Beach Haven and Spring Lake – and, incredibly, a farming community eleven miles inland – the most ferocious and unpredictable of predators began a deadly rampage: the first shark attacks on swimmers in U.S. history. (Amazon)


Discussion Questions

  1. Why do sharks loom so large in our collective imagination? Why doesn’t the Discovery Channel promote “Mackerel Week” or “Orca Week” if those sea creatures can also kill?
  2. How did the press play a role in the 2016 shark panic?
  3. How did the scientific community contribute both to popular knowledge and popular misinformation about sharks?
  4. As if actual fatal attacks were not enough, what societal factors contributed to the public’s fear of sharks and the ocean?
  5. Capuzzo promotes the theory that a single great white shark was responsible for all the fatalities, while other writers believe several different sharks were involved. Did Capuzzo’s argument convince you? What is the evidence against his theory?
  6. Capuzzo changes tone and emphasis from chapter to chapter, some being a historical take on Edwardian-era America, some a shark’s eye view of the hunt, some almost taking the tone of a thriller. Which sections of the book was your favorite?
  7. Did you feel any empathy for the shark?


The Shark Attacks that were the Inspiration for Jaws (Smithsonian Magazine)

New Jersey Shark Attacks (National Geographic)

The Matawan Shark Attack of 1916 (video)


Upcoming Selections:

October – The Boys in the Boat
November – Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Suggest a book for discussion