In July we will be reading two selections that fit the theme “Doubt.” This month’s selections are: Candice Millard’s The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground.
Candice Millard’s The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey
Teddy Roosevelt, a born winner, was on a losing streak in 1913 when an invitation came to speak in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The former president had just suffered a humiliating election defeat and needed to get away. A trip to South America, where his son Kermit lived, seemed like just the thing to take Roosevelt's mind off his political troubles. And it would give the famous outdoorsman a chance to kick around the mysterious Amazon River basin. What looked in the planning stages like a leisurely regional tour ended up a harrowing trek through the wildest, darkest heart of Brazil's uncharted Amazonian forest. The trip went from tour to survival contest when Brazil's minister of foreign affairs told Roosevelt about "an unknown river" worth exploring: Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt.
Roosevelt and his team joined forces with Brazil's most famous explorer, Candido Rondon. Before it was over, the explorers would face deadly rapids, Indian attacks, disease, starvation and a murderer within their own ranks. The trip nearly killed Roosevelt, then in his 50s. But the explorers triumphantly navigated the River of Doubt. It was such a feat that many at the time did not believe Roosevelt and Candido really had mapped the nearly 1,000-mile-long Amazon tributary.
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground
Dostoevsky’s most revolutionary novel, Notes from Underground marks the dividing line between nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, and between the visions of self each century embodied. One of the most remarkable characters in literature, the unnamed narrator is a former official who has defiantly withdrawn into an underground existence. In full retreat from society, he scrawls a passionate, obsessive, self-contradictory narrative that serves as a devastating attack on social utopianism and an assertion of man’s essentially irrational nature.
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Reminder: We usually choose 2-3 books per month. You're welcome at our meeting whether you read all or none of the books. We read fiction, nonfiction, and plays, and usually try to cover 1 piece of classic literature monthly. We read books reviewed or mentioned on NPR, and try to mirror NPR's tone at our meetings: thoughtful, polite discussion & commentary, with no arguing or posturing, and no sacred cows or unmentioned elephants in the room.
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