What we're about

Life is short, and books take a long time to read, so let's make our reading count! This group is for you if you enjoy reading well-written novels, classic literature, history, philosophy, economics, science, science fiction, poetry, short stories, or plays. We will read a lot of the great works, both Western and Non-Western, fiction and nonfiction, that you see on various ranked lists, but we may do more recent works as well to mix things up. Everyone is welcome whether you are a professor or are reading a great work for your first time. We will discuss these books to enlarge our understanding of the ideas that shape the human condition, but our discussions will be casual and we won't take ourselves too seriously.

We will meet online via videoconferencing, so anyone around the world is welcome to join. (You can join our conference with a computer with a microphone and webcam, or your smartphone; If you prefer not to be on video, there is an audio only option too. Further details on the technology are provided in the event listings.) Generally, we will meet every two weeks but check the schedule for exact times. See you soon!

Upcoming events (4+)

ONLINE Book Club: The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

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Hello all! We will meet online for a discussion of The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. (Please read the entire book prior to the meeting.) Per the publisher, "The Varieties of Religious Experience is certainly the most notable of all books in the field of the psychology of religion and probably destined to be the most influential written on religion in the twentieth century' said Walter Houston Clark in Psychology Today. The book was an immediate bestseller upon its publication in June 1902. Reflecting the pluralistic views of psychologist-turned-philosopher William James, it posits that individual religious experiences, rather than the tenets of organized religions, form the backbone of religious life. James's discussion of conversion, repentance, mysticism, and hopes of reward and fears of punishment in the hereafter--as well as his observations on the religious experiences of such diverse thinkers as Voltaire, Whitman, Emerson, Luther, Tolstoy, and others--all support his thesis. 'James' characteristic humor, his ability to put down the pretentious and to be unpretentious, and his willingness to take some risks in his choices of anecdotal data or provocative theories are all apparent in the book,' noted Professor Martin E. Marry."

You can get the book on kindle here:

And in paperback here:

All are welcome!

ONLINE Book Club: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty by Albert O. Hirschman

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Hello all! We will meet online for a discussion of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty by Albert O. Hirschman. (Please read the entire book prior to the meeting.) Per the publisher, "An innovator in contemporary thought on economic and political development looks here at decline rather than growth. Albert O. Hirschman makes a basic distinction between alternative ways of reacting to deterioration in business firms and, in general, to dissatisfaction with organizations: one, “exit,” is for the member to quit the organization or for the customer to switch to the competing product, and the other, “voice,” is for members or customers to agitate and exert influence for change “from within.” The efficiency of the competitive mechanism, with its total reliance on exit, is questioned for certain important situations. As exit often undercuts voice while being unable to counteract decline, loyalty is seen in the function of retarding exit and of permitting voice to play its proper role. The interplay of the three concepts turns out to illuminate a wide range of economic, social, and political phenomena. As the author states in the preface, “having found my own unifying way of looking at issues as diverse as competition and the two-party system, divorce and the American character, black power and the failure of ‘unhappy’ top officials to resign over Vietnam, I decided to let myself go a little.”"

You can get the book for free on PDF here:

And in paperback or kindle here:

All are welcome!

ONLINE Book Club: American History by Alan Brinkley Meeting 4 of 5

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Hello all! We will meet online for a discussion of Chapters 20 through 25 of American History by Alan Brinkley. Per the publisher, "Highly respected for its impeccable scholarship and elegant writing style, Alan Brinkley's American History provides students and instructors with a reliable, comprehensive account of the American past in which no single approach or theme predominates. From its first edition, this text has included a scrupulous account of American political and diplomatic history. Today, the book explores areas of history such as social, cultural, urban, racial and ethnic history, the history of the West and South, environmental history, the history of women and gender, and American history in a global context. Alan Brinkley was an American political historian who has taught for over 20 years at Columbia University."

We will split the readings and meetings into 5 parts, meeting every 4 weeks on Tuesday per below:

Tue 1/31/23 Meeting 1 of 5: Ch 1 through 6
Tue 2/28/23 Meeting 2 of 5: Ch 7 through 13
Tue 3/28/23 Meeting 3 of 5: Ch 14 through 19
Tue 4/25/23 Meeting 4 of 5: Ch 20 through 25
Tue 5/23/23 Meeting 5 of 5: Ch 26 through 32

You can get the latest 15th edition of the book for free on PDF here:

Or a new or used physical copy here:

All are welcome! You can join for any or all of the above 5 meetings (You don't need to commit to all).

ONLINE Book Club: Order without Design by Alain Bertaud, Meeting 1 of 2

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Hello all! We will meet online for a discussion of Chapters 1 through 5 of Order without Design by Alain Bertaud. (Please complete all the reading prior to the meeting). Per the publisher, "Urban planning is a craft learned through practice. Planners make rapid decisions that have an immediate impact on the ground—the width of streets, the minimum size of land parcels, the heights of buildings. The language they use to describe their objectives is qualitative—“sustainable,” “livable,” “resilient”—often with no link to measurable outcomes. Urban economics, on the other hand, is a quantitative science, based on theories, models, and empirical evidence largely developed in academic settings. In this book, the eminent urban planner Alain Bertaud argues that applying the theories of urban economics to the practice of urban planning would greatly improve both the productivity of cities and the welfare of urban citizens.

"Bertaud explains that markets provide the indispensable mechanism for cities' development. He cites the experience of cities without markets for land or labor in pre-reform China and Russia; this “urban planners' dream” created inefficiencies and waste. Drawing on five decades of urban planning experience in forty cities around the world, Bertaud links cities' productivity to the size of their labor markets; argues that the design of infrastructure and markets can complement each other; examines the spatial distribution of land prices and densities; stresses the importance of mobility and affordability; and critiques the land use regulations in a number of cities that aim at redesigning existing cities instead of just trying to alleviate clear negative externalities. Bertaud concludes by describing the new role that joint teams of urban planners and economists could play to improve the way cities are managed."

Meeting Schedule:
Tue 5/09/23: Meeting 1 - Chapters 1 through 5 (220 pages)
Tue 6/20/23: Meeting 2 - Chapters 6 through 8 (160 pages)

You can get the book for free in epub format here:

And on kindle here:

And in hardcover here:

All are welcome!

Past events (98)

ONLINE Book Club: American History by Alan Brinkley Meeting 3 of 5

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