I am so excited that the Non-Fiction Book Club I instigated in Alexandria continues to thrive. http://www.echopress.com/life/3826611-non-fiction-lovers-rejoice While I wish I was still able to participate with the fine people who joined in the club reading, I am glad to know they are reading and discussing together. While they now meet in members’ homes, we began in the bookstore, a small group of non-fiction lovers.
I am grateful to Kathleen Pohlig, owner of Cherry Street Books, who agreed to host our group when we initiated it. I believe that book stores are often the lifeblood of a community. We have at Cherry Street a wonderfully supportive community and many people make the store their primary place for finding gifts and books for themselves and their friends and family. It is such a lovely bookstore with art on the walls, and great books, games and socks. But I can’t tell you how many people came into the bookstore, not really looking for anything maybe, who ended up just having a wonderful conversation with me and bringing joy to my life. There were people who came in looking for a softcover book for their child, now in jail or prison, who found comfort in talking through their struggle with someone who didn’t know them or judge them, but listened with care. One day, a woman came in last minute – I’d kept the store open a few minutes late when she called saying she was on her way – to get a book for her youngster and shared with me on the boy’s teenage sister who’d just been found after running away, perhaps saving her life. Sorrows and joys, shared freely. I hope I brought as much joy to the people who walked through that door. There were tourists who came looking for the orchard or winery that was close by and I was able to give them directions to Country Blossoms Farm (http://www.countryblossomfarm.com/) or Carlos Creek Winery (http://www.carloscreekwinery.com/). I even got a card once from a family on the East Coast that really enjoyed the place I sent them for food – The Depot for Pizza (http://depotalex.com/).
I am also grateful to Sue Gooch who, with the whole group, gave me a most surprising and delightful going away party. It was such a blast and I was able to bask in the glory of this wonderful group of people who have taught me so much as we read books and shared our experiences. While I was with them, here are the books we shared:
- This Changes Everything Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein This was a wonderful starter. Though it was filled with stories about the devastation of the planet and shocks with revelations of the green-washed environmental groups in cahoots with climate damaging corporations, it also shares much about the people and movements that are making a difference in protecting our Mother Earth. Damning of the system of economics that currently rules in the U.S., it offers insights into how we can start moving in a more helpful direction.
- Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy A similar story of India’s struggles.
- Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog by Robert Jensen A wonderfully written concise treatise on critical thinking.
- The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert Reading like a storybook, Kolbert’s book describes previous mass extinctions in contrast to this accelerated, man-made sixth extinction in which we currently live. She visits a wide array of diverse habitats from the Great Barrier Reef and Bikini Atoll to the Andes and Panamanian rainforest to even her own backyard, where she discovers flora and fauna in each and brings it to life on the page.
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer This book compelled me to finally have a Top Five Favorite Books, of which it was #1. It was the only book on the list. Since then I have added a Young Adult book Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and fiction favorite, Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. Braiding Sweetgrass is a beautiful book which much be digested slowly. The stories of biology are individual but weave together along themes of nature, family, motherhood, and Native values. You will learn about plants and so much more.
- Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown This was the only group I missed as my son Tom was graduating from Purdue in Indiana but the group loved the stories of men beating the odds and finding victory. Weaving the lives of lower-middle-class youths and their struggles in the Depression into Hitler’s cover-up of the Nazi’s devastating deeds while hosting the Olympic games, the author brings the reader through to the victorious celebration which makes the underprivileged men into national heroes.
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson A must-read which details the lives of three individuals who make the migration from the South to the North as did many American Blacks. With the three coming from very different circumstances, each encounters much of the same racism and discrimination that are a part of the lives of most African Americans, unfortunately still to this day.
- Night by Elie Wiesel A classic tale of what it takes to survive the most horrific of circumstances.
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Founder of the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative (https://eji.org/) in Montgomery, Alabama, Stevenson describes the criminal justice system as encountered by the disadvantaged (blacks, youth, women) and his fights to help those on Death Row who have been wrongfully convicted.
- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty This woman is one of my favorite people. Her Ask a Mortician YouTube channel is full of great information – and snarky fun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTCg6PGaOkM Her book is a wonderfully personal and insightful walk into the world of the death trade, with a focus on cremation. I found it quite illuminating and inspiring and the group as a whole mostly loved her too, though a couple just couldn’t do it… too deathy.
I hope you take time to read some of the above books. I’ve enjoyed sharing them with this group and I think it’s always fun to read a book and discuss it with others as it brings more depth and perspective than you can ever get reading it solo.
I am finally grateful for Deb Trumm who has stepped up with the administration of the group since I’ve moved.
Since I left town, the group has discussed Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado (I’d read this previously with another book club and it’s a frank statement on poverty in America) and one recommended by Van Gooch, Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior by Jonathan Weiner (just finished reading this one and it is great – really gives you a look at the humanity of our great scientists and I learned a bit about genes!). I even heard recently that Van, a retired professor from U of MN – Morris, is bringing a fellow professor to the book group for the discussion! Now THAT is a great book club.
I feel contented to know that great books are being read and discussed and, who knows, maybe I’ll get down to Alex for the Non-Fiction Book Club sometime soon!