Interested in human rights and social justice? Unsure as to the direction of our political, social and economic institutions?
And are you looking for fellow humans to meet and encourage learning and help inspire change?
In this book club, we encourage each other to learn more, discuss ideas, challenge each other and teach each other. Together we explore nonfiction, memoir and fiction books that we collectively choose. We may also follow up our book club meeting with a tea or a beer down the street.
April 2016 Selection: Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?
The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against big government led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.
The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom are sincerely held. But these beliefs also advance their personal and corporate interests: Many of their companies have run afoul of federal pollution, worker safety, securities, and tax laws.
The chief figures in the network are Charles and David Koch, whose father made his fortune in part by building oil refineries in Stalin s Russia and Hitler s Germany. The patriarch later was a founding member of the John Birch Society, whose politics were so radical it believed Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. The brothers were schooled in a political philosophy that asserted the only role of government is to provide security and to enforce property rights.
When libertarian ideas proved decidedly unpopular with voters, the Koch brothers and their allies chose another path. If they pooled their vast resources, they could fund an interlocking array of organizations that could work in tandem to influence and ultimately control academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and, they hoped, the presidency. Richard Mellon Scaife, the mercurial heir to banking and oil fortunes, had the brilliant insight that most of their political activities could be written off as tax-deductible philanthropy.
These organizations were given innocuous names such as Americans for Prosperity. Funding sources were hidden whenever possible. This process reached its apotheosis with the allegedly populist Tea Party movement, abetted mightily by the "Citizens United" decision a case conceived of by legal advocates funded by the network.
The political operatives the network employs are disciplined, smart, and at times ruthless. Mayer documents instances in which people affiliated with these groups hired private detectives to impugn whistle-blowers, journalists, and even government investigators. And their efforts have been remarkably successful. Libertarian views on taxes and regulation, once far outside the mainstream and still rejected by most Americans, are ascendant in the majority of state governments, the Supreme Court, and Congress. Meaningful environmental, labor, finance, and tax reforms have been stymied.
Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews-including with several sources within the network-and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book. In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.
"Dark Money" is a book that must be read by anyone who cares about the future of American democracy."
March 2016 Selection:The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Cleopatra," the #1 national bestseller, unpacks the mystery of the Salem Witch Trials.
It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister's daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.
The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, parents and children each other. Aside from suffrage, the Salem Witch Trials represent the only moment when women played the central role in American history. In curious ways, the trials would shape the future republic.
As psychologically thrilling as it is historically seminal, THE WITCHES is Stacy Schiff's account of this fantastical story-the first great American mystery unveiled fully for the first time by one of our most acclaimed historians.
February 2016 Selection: As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt" "has done the seemingly impossible challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum. Drawing on his twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, he shows how moral judgments arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns. In this subtle yet accessible book, Haidt gives you the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. If you re ready to trade in anger for understanding, read "The Righteous Mind."
January 2016 Selection: One the eve of WWI, three American male explorers stumble onto an all-female society somewhere in the distant reaches of the earth. Unable to believe their eyes, they promptly set out to find some men, convinced that since this is a civilized country--there must be men. So begins this sparkling utopian novel, a romp through a whole world "masculine" and "feminine", as on target today as when it was written 65 years ago.
December 2015 Selection: A classic expose in company with "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Silent Spring," "The Story of Stuff" expands on the celebrated documentary exploring the threat of overconsumption on the environment, economy, and our health. Leonard examines the "stuff" we use everyday, offering a galvanizing critique and steps for a changed planet.
October 2015 Selection : Sustainability is about contributing to a society that everybody benefits from, not just going organic because you don't want to die from cancer or have a difficult pregnancy. What is a sustainable restaurant? It's one in which as the restaurant grows, the people grow with it." from Behind the Kitchen Door
How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America? And how do poor working conditions discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? Saru Jayaraman, who launched the national restaurant workers' organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, sets out to answer these questions by following the lives of restaurant workers in New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Detroit, and New Orleans.
Blending personal narrative and investigative journalism, Jayaraman shows us that the quality of the food that arrives at our restaurant tables depends not only on the sourcing of the ingredients. Our meals benefit from the attention and skill of the people who chop, grill, saute, and serve. Behind the Kitchen Door is a groundbreaking exploration of the political, economic, and moral implications of dining out. Jayaraman focuses on the stories of individuals, like Daniel, who grew up on a farm in Ecuador and sought to improve the conditions for employees at Del Posto; the treatment of workers behind the scenes belied the high-toned Slow Food ethic on display in the front of the house.
Increasingly, Americans are choosing to dine at restaurants that offer organic, fair-trade, and free-range ingredients for reasons of both health and ethics. Yet few of these diners are aware of the working conditions at the restaurants themselves. But whether you eat haute cuisine or fast food, the well-being of restaurant workers is a pressing concern, affecting our health and safety, local economies, and the life of our communities. Highlighting the roles of the 10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring their passion, tenacity, and vision to the American dining experience, Jayaraman sets out a bold agenda to raise the living standards of the nation's second-largest private sector workforce and ensure that dining out is a positive experience on both sides of the kitchen door."
September 2015 Selection: #1 "NEW YORK TIMES" BESTSELLER Hailed by Toni Morrison as required reading, a bold and personal literary exploration of America s racial history by the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States ("The New York Observer")
" This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it. "
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of race, a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
"Between the World and Me "is Ta-Nehisi Coates s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son and readers the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, "Between the World and Me "clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
June 2015 Selection: The provocative bestseller "She's Not There "is the winning, utterly surprising story of a person changing genders. By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of family. Told in Boylan's fresh voice, "She's Not There" is about a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret. As James evolves into Jennifer in scenes that are by turns tender, startling, and witty, a marvelously human perspective emerges on issues of love, sex, and the fascinating relationship between our physical and intuitive selves. Now with a new epilogue from the author and an afterword from Deirdre "Grace" Boylan, "She's Not There" shines a light on the often confounding process of accepting ourselves.
March 2015 Selection: Organized into four sections, this collection of essays is geared toward activists engaging with the dynamic questions of how to create and support effective movements for visionary systemic change. These essays and interviews present powerful lessons for transformative organizing. It offers a firsthand look at the challenges and the opportunities of antiracist work in white communities, feminist work with men, and bringing women of color feminism into the heart of social movements. Drawing on two decades of personal activist experience and case studies within these areas, Crass's essays insightfully explore ways of transforming divisions of race, class, and gender into catalysts for powerful vision, strategy, and building movements in the United States today. This collection will inspire and empower anyone who is interested in implementing change through organizing.
February 2015 Selection: Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see black youth seated together in the cafeteria. Of course, it's not just the black kids sitting together - the white, Latino, Asian Pacific and, in some regions, American Indian youth are clustered in their own groups too. The same phenomenon can be observed in college dining halls, faculty lounges and corporate cafeterias. What is going on here? Is this self-segregation a problem we should try to fix, or a coping strategy we should support? How can we get past our reluctance to talk about racial issues to even discuss it? And what about all the other questions we and our children have about race?
January 2015 Selection: In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....
Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force
October 2014 Selection: Just over two hundred years ago, there were one billion humans on Earth.
There are now over seven billion of us.
And, sometime this century, the world population will reach at least ten billion.
Deforestation. Desertification. Species extinction. Global warming. Growing threats to food and water. The driving issues of our times are the result of one huge problem: Us.
As the population continues to grow, our problems will increase. And this means that every way we look at it, a planet of ten billion people is likely to be a nightmare.
Stephen Emmott, a scientist whose lab is at the forefront of research into complex natural systems, sounds the alarm. TEN BILLION is a snapshot of our planet, and our species, approaching a crisis, and a stark analysis of where this leaves us. TEN BILLION is not another climate book. TEN BILLION is a book about us.
September 2014 Selection:Since its publication fifty years ago, "Animal Farm" has become one of the most controversial books ever written. It has been translated into seventy languages and sold millions of copies throughout the world. This edition is being published to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of its original U.S. publication.
It features 100 full-color and halftone illustrations by world-renowned artist Ralph Steadman. As vital and relevant as it was fifty years ago, "Animal Farm" is a devastating satire of the Soviet Union by the man V. S. Pritchett called "the conscience of his generation." A fable about an uprising of farm animals against their human masters, it illustrates how new tyranny replaces old in the wake of revolutions and power corrupts even the noblest of causes.
This anniversary edition includes Orwell's proposed but unpublished preface to the original edition and his preface to the 1947 Ukranian edition. These appendices evoke the historical context in which Orwell conceived and wrote his classic novel.
August 2014 Selection: Today's economic crisis is capitalism's worst since the Great Depression. Millions have lost their jobs, homes and healthcare while those who work watch their pensions, benefits, and job security decline. As more and more are impacted by the crisis, the system continues to make the very wealthy even richer. In eye-opening interviews with prominent economist Richard Wolff, David Barsamian probes the root causes of the current economic crisis, its unjust social consequences, and what can and should be done to turn things around. While others blame corrupt bankers and unregulated speculators, the government, or even the poor who borrowed, the authors show that the causes of the crisis run much deeper. They reach back to the 1970s when the capitalist system itself shifted, ending the century-old pattern of rising wages for U.S. workers and thereby enabling the top 1% to become ultra-rich at the expense of the 99%. Since then, economic injustice has become chronic and further corrupted politics. The Occupy movement, by articulating deep indignation with the whole system, mobilizes huge numbers who seek basic change. Occupying the Economy not only clarifies and analyzes the crisis in U.S. capitalism today, it also points toward solutions that can shape a far better future for all.
July 2014 Selection: Ralph Nader has fought for over fifty years on behalf of American citizens against the reckless influence of corporations and their government patrons on our society. Now he ramps up the fight and makes a persuasive case that Americans are not powerless. In "Unstoppable," he explores the emerging political alignment of the Left and the Right against converging corporate-government tyranny.
Large segments from the progressive, conservative, and libertarian political camps find themselves aligned in opposition to the destruction of civil liberties, the economically draining corporate welfare state, the relentless perpetuation of America's wars, sovereignty-shredding trade agreements, and the unpunished crimes of Wall Street against Main Street. Nader shows how Left-Right coalitions can prevail over the corporate state and crony capitalism.
He draws on his extensive experience working with grassroots organizations in Washington and reveals the many surprising victories by united progressive and conservative forces. As a participator in, and keen observer of, these budding alliances, he breaks new ground in showing how such coalitions can overcome specific obstacles that divide them, and how they can expand their power on Capitol Hill, in the courts, and in the decisive arena of public opinion.
Americans can reclaim their right to consume safe foods and drugs, live in healthy environments, receive fair rewards for their work, resist empire, regain control of taxpayer assets, strengthen investor rights, and make bureaucrats more efficient and accountable. Nader argues it is in the interest of citizens of different political labels to join in the struggle against the corporate state that will, if left unchecked, ruin the Republic, override our constitution, and shred the basic rights of the American people.
June 2014 Selection: It is a well-established fact that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. "The Spirit Level," based on thirty years of research, takes this truth a step further. One common factor links the healthiest and happiest societies: the degree of equality among their members. Further, more unequal societies are bad for everyone within them-the rich and middle class as well as the poor.
The remarkable data assembled in "The Spirit Level" exposes stark differences, not only among the nations of the first world but even within America's fifty states. Almost every modern social problem-poor health, violence, lack of community life, teen pregnancy, mental illness-is more likely to occur in a less-equal society.
Renowned researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett lay bare the contradictions between material success and social failure in the developed world. But they do not merely tell us what's wrong. They offer a way toward a new political outlook, shifting from self-interested consumerism to a friendlier, more sustainable society.
May 2014 Selection: Campaigning for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan told stories of Cadillac-driving "welfare queens" and "strapping young bucks" buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. In trumpeting these tales of welfare run amok, Reagan never needed to mention race, because he was blowing a dog whistle: sending a message about racial minorities inaudible on one level, but clearly heard on another. In doing so, he tapped into a long political tradition that started with George Wallace and Richard Nixon, and is more relevant than ever in the age of the Tea Party and the first black president.
In Dog Whistle Politics, Ian Haney Lopez offers a sweeping account of how politicians and plutocrats deploy veiled racial appeals to persuade white voters to support policies that favor the extremely rich yet threaten their own interests. Dog whistle appeals generate middle-class enthusiasm for political candidates who promise to crack down on crime, curb undocumented immigration, and protect the heartland against Islamic infiltration, but ultimately vote to slash taxes for the rich, give corporations regulatory control over industry and financial markets, and aggressively curtail social services. White voters, convinced by powerful interests that minorities are their true enemies, fail to see the connection between the political agendas they support and the surging wealth inequality that takes an increasing toll on their lives. The tactic continues at full force, with the Republican Party using racial provocations to drum up enthusiasm for weakening unions and public pensions, defunding public schools, and opposing health care reform.
Rejecting any simple story of malevolent and obvious racism, Haney Lopez links as never before the two central themes that dominate American politics today: the decline of the middle class and the Republican Party's increasing reliance on white voters. Dog Whistle Politics will generate a lively and much-needed debate about how racial politics has destabilized the American middle class -- white and nonwhite members alike."
April 2014 Selection: Cultural Writing. CALIBAN AND THE WITCH is a history of the body in the transition to capitalism. Moving from the peasant revolts of the late Middle Ages to the witch-hunts and the rise of mechanical philosophy, Federici investigates the capitalist rationalization of social reproduction. She shows how the battle against the rebel body and the conflict between body and mind are essential conditions for the development of labor power and self-ownership, two central principles of modern social organization. "It is both a passionate work of memory recovered and a hammer of humanity's agenda"--Peter Linebaugh, author of The London Hanged.
March 2014 Selection: Small Is Beautiful is Oxford-trained economist E. F. Schumacher's classic call for the end of excessive consumption. Schumacher inspired such movements as "Buy Locally" and "Fair Trade," while voicing strong opposition to "casino capitalism" and wasteful corporate behemoths. Named one of the Times Literary Supplement's 100 Most Influential Books Since World War II, Small Is Beautiful presents eminently logical arguments for building our economies around the needs of communities, not corporations.
February 2014 Selection: What's wrong with the US food system? Why is half the world starving while the other half battles obesity? Who decides our food issues, and why can't we do better with labeling, safety, or school food? These are complex questions that are hard to answer in an engaging way for a broad audience. But everybody eats, and food politics affects us all.Marion Nestle, whom Michael Pollan ranked as the #2 most powerful foodie in America (after Michelle Obama) in "Forbes," has always used cartoons in her public presentations to communicate how politics--shaped by government, corporate marketing, economics, and geography--influences food choice. Cartoons do more than entertain; the best get right to the core of complicated concepts and powerfully convey what might otherwise take pages to explain.In "Eat, Drink, Vote," Nestle teams up with The Cartoonist Group syndicate to present more than 250 of her favorite cartoons on issues ranging from dietary advice to genetic engineering to childhood obesity. Using the cartoons as illustration and commentary, she engagingly summarizes some of today's most pressing issues in food politics. While encouraging readers to vote with their forks for healthier diets, this book insists that it's also necessary to vote with votes to make it easier for everyone to make healthier dietary choices.
January 2014 Selection: Aldous Huxley's tour de force, Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a "utopian" future—where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.