Alumnus Peter Resnik founds Boston's Book Club for the Homeless
Peter Resnik, alumnus and senior counsel at McDermott Will & Emery, never imagined
that his daily walk to work through the Boston Common would inspire a national trend.
Most mornings, Resnik would pass homeless veteran, Robert Day on his walk through
the park. Cordial greetings grew into conversations, until the two began discussing a
shared passion: literature.
For Resnik, books offered respite from complex litigation and high-profile product
liability cases. For Day, books were an escape from the isolation of homelessness.
It's easy to let the pro
bono slip, but it becomes
a very important part of
your career, especially
when you look back on
what you've done.
Book discussions soon became a daily connection for the
two men, and Resnik began sharing his latest reads with
Day. I asked him what he had done with the first book I'd
given him, recalls Resnik. He pointed to another
homeless man in the park and said, 'I gave it to that man.'
He soon learned that his book had been changing hands
throughout the homeless community. It was at this point
that one of the nation's first book clubs for the homeless
The two men began weekly book discussions, along with a growing group of readers
from the homeless community. "The idea for the book club was to try and bring people
out of isolation and give them a positive accomplishment," says Resnik.
For the past three years, the club has continued to meet every Tuesday morning in
Boston's Church on the Hill to discuss works like The Kite Runner, Water for
Elephants, and Ralph Waldo Emerson essays.
Day and Resnik's group, today known as "The Oasis Book Club," has received national
attention from The Boston Globe, Boston University's NPR affiliate, WBUR, People
magazine, CBS News, and Bostonia magazine. Over the past three years, the idea has
been replicated across the country: Seattle, Wash., Fort Wayne, Ind., Smyrna, Fla., New
York City, and even London and Barcelona, according to Bostonia.
As the head of McDermott Will & Emery's firm-wide pharmaceutical and biotech
products liability practice, Resnik has clearly maintained a strong career focus, though he
believes in casting a wider net. You get through a period in your career where you're so
focused on developing your practice, developing your career, it's easy to let the pro bono slip, says Resnik. But it becomes a very important part of your career, especially when
you look back on what you've done.