Welcome to Inside Optima®: Resident Stories, a series that takes you behind the scenes of life in Optima’s dynamic communities. Through intimate conversations with our residents, we’re exploring the diverse experiences, unique lifestyles, and vibrant cultures that flourish within Optima’s architecturally stunning buildings. Join us as we discover what makes living in an Optima community not just a choice of residence, but a way of life. We recently sat down with Shirley Moffs, resident and Book Club member at Optima Sonoran Village®.

How long have you been a resident at Optima Sonoran Village®? What drew you there?

We moved to Optima Sonoran Village® in August 2020. We had always owned homes here in Scottsdale and began downsizing as our children grew up, and ended up in a townhouse about five minutes from here. From there, we watched this property being built, and we admired the architecture and landscaping — and saw how pet-friendly it is (we have a dog). So we opted for this wonderful new ‘easy living’ and couldn’t be happier.

Can you tell us a little about what inspired you to join the Resident Book Club at Optima Sonoran Village®?
When we first moved in, the Book Club held their meetings around the pool, and I grew curious when I saw them. I started asking around — especially among other dog owners — and began to see announcements around the building, as well. I love to read and was eager to meet new people, so I decided to join.

How many members are in your Club?
These days, there are about 35 members. We usually have 8 to 12 people attend any given bok discussion, since there are people who live elsewhere in the summer months and others who travel for work. So there’s a core group of us who are here all the time and others who come and go.

How often and where do you typically meet?
The Book Club meets the third Monday of every month in the early evening, after dinner. We experimented with getting together in different spaces around the community, but find that meeting in someone’s apartment is most comfortable for the kind of small group discussions we have. We typically bring wine and light snacks, as well, and we often run past our end time to simply stay and chat.

How does the Book Club decide on which books to read? Is there a specific theme or genre that the Club focuses on?
The group decides together what we read. We like variety, so we don’t stick to a single genre.  If we read a book that is heavy or somber, the next selection will be lighter. At one time there was a rule that we wouldn’t read anything longer than 300 pages, but we decided it was too restrictive and now leave the door open for longer books that we really want to dive into. And when we decide on the next book, the person who suggested it leads the discussion at our next get together. There are lots of online resources for crafting discussion guides for the books we select, which makes getting organized for a meeting is quite easy.

Can you share a particularly memorable discussion or event that you’ve enjoyed in the Book Club?
Last year, I saw this fellow, David Ambroz, on social media. He was raised in the foster care system and lived on the streets with his siblings as a young child. He has since become an award-winning child welfare advocate and wrote a best-selling memoir, A Place Called Home. Right before we were scheduled to meet and discuss the book, I discovered that David was doing a speaking tour for the book. I reached out on social media to see if he might consider coming to our Book Club as a guest. Well, believe it or not, he got right back to me. He said he wasn’t going to be in Phoenix, but offered to join us on Zoom during our meeting. So there he was, in his kitchen making dinner, and talking to us about his life experiences! What an incredible moment that was to have a direct connection to the author.

All of us in the conversation that night were so inspired, and have since found ways to get more involved with issues of foster care in Phoenix and Arizona. It’s amazing how the reading of a book with others can lead to such positive action.

What have been some of the favorite books you’ve read and discussed?
We read The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, which recently came out as a movie (the book is much, much better!). And The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was terrific.

We also read Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, which for me was particularly interesting because I’m not usually a fan of science fiction and I found it a surprisingly humanistic story.

How do you think participating in a Book Club enriches the residential experience at Optima Sonoran Village®?
I’ve made some great friends through our Book Club; we often meet for coffee and lunch, or for dinner with our spouses, too.

And I have also found so much personal growth from participating in the Book Club. I love the discipline and accountability around reading and just having that opportunity to participate in conversation and learn from other people’s points of view.

For residents who might be interested in joining the Book Club, what advice would you give them? How can they get involved?
There’s always information about upcoming Book Club meetings on the building app, along with signage and emails. And we tend to act like ambassadors for the Club, encouraging other residents we meet at building events to come to a meeting if they like to read. Even if they haven’t read the book that month, they can simply enjoy the discussion and see if it’s a community-within-a-community that they might like to join.