Books We’re Reading & Meeting Dates

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Upstream. Mary Oliver. 192 pages [2016]

Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from great thinkers and writers of the past to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion.

Throughout this collection, Oliver positions not just herself upstream but us as well as she encourages us all to keep moving, to lose ourselves in the awe of the unknown, and to give power and time to the creative and whimsical urges that live within us.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Fruit of the Drunken Tree. Ingrid Rojas Contreras. 320 pages [2018]

Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to their gated community in Bogotá, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside the neighborhood walls. When their mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city’s guerrillaoccupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona’s mysterious ways. But Petrona’s unusual behavior belies more than shyness. As both girls’ families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy that will force them both to choose between sacrifice and betrayal.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. Anne Lamott.  208 pages [2018]

“I am stockpiling antibiotics for the Apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen,” Anne Lamott admits at the beginning of Almost Everything. Despair and uncertainty surround us: in the news, in our families, and in ourselves. But even when life is at its bleakest–when we are, as she puts it, “doomed, stunned, exhausted, and over-caffeinated”–the seeds of rejuvenation are at hand.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. Arlie Russell Hochschild. 368 pages [2018, hb 2016]

A vivid example of how empathy and compassion can help us understand Americans who believe they have been marginalized. Hochschild is one of the most influential sociologists of her generation. In this ambitious book, she leaves her hometown liberal milieu of Berkeley, California, and travels to archconservative Louisiana, where she interviews Tea Party members and supporters of Donald Trump.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Katherine J.J. Cramer. 298 pages [2016]

Takes a look at some of the same principles that seem to be at work in the Hochschild book and applies them to Wisconsin. The Politics of Resentment shows that rural resentment—no less than partisanship, race, or class—plays a major role in dividing America against itself.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Seat at the Table: Huston Smith in Conversation with Native Americans on Religious Freedom. Huston Smith. 253 pages [2007]

In this collection of illuminating conversations, renowned historian of world religions Huston Smith invites ten influential American Indian spiritual and political leaders to talk about their five-hundred-year struggle for religious freedom. American Indian leaders Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux), Winona LaDuke (Anishshinaabeg), Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Frank Dayish, Jr. (Navajo), Charlotte Black Elk (Oglala Lakota), Douglas George-Kanentiio (Mohawk-Iroquois), Lenny Foster (Dine/Navajo), Tonya Gonnella Frichner (Onondaga), Anthony Guy Lopez (Lakota-Sioux), and Oren Lyons (Onondaga) provide an impressive overview of the critical issues facing the Native American community today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

This Is How It Always Is; A Novel. Laurie Frankel. 336 pages [2017]

Claude is five years old, the youngest of five brothers. He loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever he wants to be, but aren’t sure they’re ready to share that with the world. The entire family keeps Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities. Susan H. and John T. McFadden. 256 pages [2014]

Drawing on medicine, social science, philosophy, and religion to provide a broad perspective on aging, Aging Together offers a vision of relationships filled with love, joy, and hope in the face of a condition that all too often elicits anxiety, hopelessness, and despair.