Book club is tomorrow at 8:00pm on Zoom. Here are Erik’s picks:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Historical Fiction – 552 pages
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu – Science Fiction, Short Stories – 411 pages
From award-winning author Ken Liu comes his much anticipated second volume of short stories.
Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This collection includes a selection of his science fiction and fantasy stories from the last five years — sixteen of his best — plus a new novelette.
In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from the forthcoming book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, “The Veiled Throne“.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore – Fiction, Humor – 444 pages
The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years—except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work “reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams” (Philadelphia Inquirer).
Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more—except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala—and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynold – Nonfiction – 294 pages
This is NOT a history book.
This is a book about the here and now.
A book to help us better understand why we are where we are.
A book about race.
The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.
Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.
I love this book. Parable of the Sower is powerful, timely, and important. I’m listening to a podcast about it too.
Octavia’s Parables. https://pca.st/podcast/68fbfb40-92d4-0138-ee75-0acc26574db2
The Book of the Living, verse 26: Embrace diversity
Unite—Or be divided, robbed, ruled, killed
By those who see you as prey.
Or be destroyed.
Trump sees the American people as prey. How will you embrace diversity to protect what is important to you?
Our pick for this month is Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.
Next book club will be November 20th at 8:00pm on Zoom.
Book club is this Friday on Zoom at 8:00pm. Here are Andrew’s picks:
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others’ emotions.
Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith . . . and a startling vision of human destiny.
All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries (book 1) by Martha Wells
A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that interrogates the roots of consciousness through Artificial Intelligence.
As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.
But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.
But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival by Katrina Blair
The Wild Wisdom of Weeds is the only book on foraging and edible weeds to focus on the thirteen weeds found all over the world, each of which represents a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit. More than just a field guide to wild edibles, it is a global plan for human survival.
Katrina Blair’s philosophy in The Wild Wisdom of Weeds is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our noses, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we will achieve true food security. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds is about healing ourselves both in body and in spirit, in an age where technology, commodity agriculture, and processed foods dictate the terms of our intelligence. But if we can become familiar with these thirteen edible survival weeds found all over the world, we will never go hungry, and we will become closer to our own wild human instincts–all the while enjoying the freshest, wildest, and most nutritious food there is. For free!
The thirteen plants found growing in every region across the world are: dandelion, mallow, purslane, plantain, thistle, amaranth, dock, mustard, grass, chickweed, clover, lambsquarter, and knotweed. These special plants contribute to the regeneration of the earth while supporting the survival of our human species; they grow everywhere where human civilization exists, from the hottest deserts to the Arctic Circle, following the path of human disturbance. Indeed, the more humans disturb the earth and put our food supply at risk, the more these thirteen plants proliferate. It’s a survival plan for the ages.
New York Times bestselling author Sarah Kendzior documents the truth about the calculated rise to power of Donald Trump since the 1980s and how the erosion of our liberties made an American dema-gogue possible.
The story of Donald Trump’s rise to power is the story of a buried American history – buried because people in power liked it that way. It was visible without being seen, influential without being named, ubiquitous without being overt. Sarah Kendzior’s Hiding in Plain Sight pulls back the veil on a history spanning decades, a history of an American autocrat in the making. In doing so, she reveals the inherent fragility of American democracy – how our continual loss of freedom, the rise of consolidated corruption, and the secrets behind a burgeoning autocratic United States have been hiding in plain sight for decades.
In Kendzior’s signature and celebrated style, she expertly outlines Trump’s meteoric rise from the 1980s until today, interlinking key moments of his life with the degradation of the American political system and the continual erosion of our civil liberties by foreign powers. Kendzior also offers a never-before-seen look at her lifelong tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – living in New York through 9/11 and in St. Louis during the Ferguson uprising, and researching media and authoritarianism when Trump emerged using the same tactics as the post-Soviet dictatorships she had long studied.
It is a terrible feeling to sense a threat coming, but it is worse when we let apathy, doubt, and fear prevent us from preparing ourselves. Hiding in Plain Sight confronts the injustice we have too long ignored because the truth is the only way forward.
Our next book is Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Our next book club will be October 9th at 8:00 PM on Zoom.
Book club is this Friday at 8:00pm on Zoom. Here are the picks:
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
In his most provocative and practical book yet, one of the foremost thinkers of our time redefines what it means to understand the world, succeed in a profession, contribute to a fair and just society, detect nonsense, and influence others. Citing examples ranging from Hammurabi to Seneca, Antaeus the Giant to Donald Trump, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shows how the willingness to accept one’s own risks is an essential attribute of heroes, saints, and flourishing people in all walks of life.
As always both accessible and iconoclastic, Taleb challenges long-held beliefs about the values of those who spearhead military interventions, make financial investments, and propagate religious faiths. Among his insights:
• For social justice, focus on symmetry and risk sharing. You cannot make profits and transfer the risks to others, as bankers and large corporations do. You cannot get rich without owning your own risk and paying for your own losses. Forcing skin in the game corrects this asymmetry better than thousands of laws and regulations.
• Ethical rules aren’t universal. You’re part of a group larger than you, but it’s still smaller than humanity in general.
• Minorities, not majorities, run the world. The world is not run by consensus but by stubborn minorities imposing their tastes and ethics on others.
• You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot. “Educated philistines” have been wrong on everything from Stalinism to Iraq to low-carb diets.
• Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find). A simple barbell can build muscle better than expensive new machines.
• True religion is commitment, not just faith. How much you believe in something is manifested only by what you’re willing to risk for it.
The phrase “skin in the game” is one we have often heard but rarely stopped to truly dissect. It is the backbone of risk management, but it’s also an astonishingly rich worldview that, as Taleb shows in this book, applies to all aspects of our lives. As Taleb says, “The symmetry of skin in the game is a simple rule that’s necessary for fairness and justice, and the ultimate BS-buster,” and “Never trust anyone who doesn’t have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them.”
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.
Here we meet a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who is on the run, and Nakata, an aging simpleton who is drawn to Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, acclaimed author Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder, in what is a truly remarkable journey.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
A coolly glittering gem of detective fiction that has haunted three generations of readers, from one of the greatest mystery writers of all time.
A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s iconic, influential, and beloved The Maltese Falcon.
Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes—and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.
For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz’s overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods has become a modern classic of travel literature.
Our current pick is Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling.
Our next book club will be September 11th at 8:00 PM on Zoom.
Book club is this Friday at 8:00PM on Zoom. Here are Jim’s picks:
Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich and Bela Shayevich
When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the Nobel Prize, it cited her for inventing “a new kind of literary genre,” describing her work as “a history of emotions—a history of the soul.” Alexievich’s distinctive documentary style, combining extended individual monologues with a collage of voices, records the stories of ordinary women and men who are rarely given the opportunity to speak, whose experiences are often lost in the official histories of the nation.
In Secondhand Time, Alexievich chronicles the demise of communism. Everyday Russian citizens recount the past thirty years, showing us what life was like during the fall of the Soviet Union and what it’s like to live in the new Russia left in its wake. Through interviews spanning 1991 to 2012, Alexievich takes us behind the propaganda and contrived media accounts, giving us a panoramic portrait of contemporary Russia and Russians who still carry memories of oppression, terror, famine, massacres—but also of pride in their country, hope for the future, and a belief that everyone was working and fighting together to bring about a utopia. Here is an account of life in the aftermath of an idea so powerful it once dominated a third of the world.
A magnificent tapestry of the sorrows and triumphs of the human spirit woven by a master, Secondhand Time tells the stories that together make up the true history of a nation. “Through the voices of those who confided in her,” The Nation writes, “Alexievich tells us about human nature, about our dreams, our choices, about good and evil—in a word, about ourselves.”
In this New York Times bestseller, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers—“fans of geography, history, and politics (and maps) will be enthralled” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).
Maps have a mysterious hold over us. Whether ancient, crumbling parchments or generated by Google, maps tell us things we want to know, not only about our current location or where we are going but about the world in general. And yet, when it comes to geo-politics, much of what we are told is generated by analysts and other experts who have neglected to refer to a map of the place in question.
All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. In “one of the best books about geopolitics” (The Evening Standard), now updated to include 2016 geopolitical developments, journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the US, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Greenland and the Arctic—their weather, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, and borders—to provide a context often missing from our political reportage: how the physical characteristics of these countries affect their strengths and vulnerabilities and the decisions made by their leaders.
Offering “a fresh way of looking at maps” (The New York Times Book Review), Marshall explains the complex geo-political strategies that shape the globe. Why is Putin so obsessed with Crimea? Why was the US destined to become a global superpower? Why does China’s power base continue to expand? Why is Tibet destined to lose its autonomy? Why will Europe never be united? The answers are geographical. “In an ever more complex, chaotic, and interlinked world, Prisoners of Geography is a concise and useful primer on geopolitics” (Newsweek) and a critical guide to one of the major determining factors in world affairs.
When asked simple questions about global trends―what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school―we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.
In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective―from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).
Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.
It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.
Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.
23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
If you’ve wondered how we did not see the economic collapse coming, Ha-Joon Chang knows the answer: We didn’t ask what they didn’t tell us about capitalism. This is a lighthearted book with a serious purpose: to question the assumptions behind the dogma and sheer hype that the dominant school of neoliberal economists-the apostles of the freemarket-have spun since the Age of Reagan.
Chang, the author of the international bestseller Bad Samaritans, is one of the world’s most respected economists, a voice of sanity-and wit-in the tradition of John Kenneth Galbraith and Joseph Stiglitz. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism equips readers with an understanding of how global capitalism works-and doesn’t. In his final chapter, “How to Rebuild the World,” Chang offers a vision of how we can shape capitalism to humane ends, instead of becoming slaves of the market.
The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Elizabeth Blackburn
Have you wondered why some sixty-year-olds look and feel like forty-year-olds and why some forty-year-olds look and feel like sixty-year-olds? While many factors contribute to aging and illness, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn discovered a biological indicator called telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes telomeres, which protect our genetic heritage. Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel’s research shows that the length and health of one’s telomeres are a biological underpinning of the long-hypothesized mind-body connection. They and other scientists have found that changes we can make to our daily habits can protect our telomeres and increase our health spans (the number of years we remain healthy, active, and disease-free).
The Telemere Effect reveals how Blackburn and Epel’s findings, together with research from colleagues around the world, cumulatively show that sleep quality, exercise, aspects of diet, and even certain chemicals profoundly affect our telomeres, and that chronic stress, negative thoughts, strained relationships, and even the wrong neighborhoods can eat away at them.
Drawing from this scientific body of knowledge, they share lists of foods and suggest amounts and types of exercise that are healthy for our telomeres, mind tricks you can use to protect yourself from stress, and information about how to protect your children against developing shorter telomeres, from pregnancy through adolescence. And they describe how we can improve our health spans at the community level, with neighborhoods characterized by trust, green spaces, and safe streets.
The Telemere Effect will make you reassess how you live your life on a day-to-day basis. It is the first book to explain how we age at a cellular level and how we can make simple changes to keep our chromosomes and cells healthy, allowing us to stay disease-free longer and live more vital and meaningful lives.
Our current pick is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson.
Our next book club will be July 24th at 8:00 PM on Zoom.
Book Club is tonight at 8pm on Zoom. Here are Ryan’s picks:
The Tradition by Jericho Brown
Jericho Brown’s daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown’s mastery, and his invention of the duplex—a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues—is testament to his formal skill. The Tradition is a cutting and necessary collection, relentless in its quest for survival while reveling in a celebration of contradiction.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Around the World in Eighty Days (French: Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours) is a classic adventure novel by the French writer Jules Verne, published in 1873. In the story, Phileas Fogg of London and his newly employed French valet Passepartout attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days on a £20,000 wager (roughly £1.6 million today) set by his friends at the Reform Club. It is one of Verne’s most acclaimed works.The story starts in London on Tuesday, October 1, 1872. Fogg is a rich English gentleman living in solitude. Despite his wealth, Fogg lives a modest life with habits carried out with mathematical precision. Very little can be said about his social life other than that he is a member of the Reform Club. Having dismissed his former valet, James Foster, for bringing him shaving water at 84 °F (29 °C) instead of 86 °F (30 °C), Fogg hires a Frenchman by the name of Jean Passepartout as a replacement.At the Reform Club, Fogg gets involved in an argument over an article in The Daily Telegraph stating that with the opening of a new railway section in India, it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days. He accepts a wager for £20,000 (equal to about £1.6 million today) from his fellow club members, which he will receive if he makes it around the world in 80 days. Accompanied by Passepartout, he leaves London by train at 8:45 P.M. on Wednesday, October 2, 1872, and is due back at the Reform Club at the same time 80 days later, Saturday, December 21, 1872.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S Thompson
This cult classic of gonzo journalism is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.
Circe by Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child — not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power — the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.