- 4:00PM

Reading the Western Landscape Book Group

Located in Arboretum Library

About This Event

The Arboretum Library’s book group explores the portrayal of western North American landscape in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  The group is transitioning from meeting the 1st Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. to meeting the last Wednesday of the month in the Arboretum Library or out on the Arboretum grounds, weather and sunlight permitting.  Check the dates below.

The group uses the Shared Inquiry™ method developed by the Great Books Foundation.  The chosen book of the month must be read in order to participate.

New members are always welcome!

For more information about the Book Group, please contact, Arboretum Librarian, Susan Eubank, at 626-821-3213 or Susan.Eubank@Arboretum.org.  Please RSVP to Susan if you plan to attend.


November 4, 2015

Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 by Barbara Kingsolver, Ithaca, NY: ILR Press/Cornell University Press , 1989.   “Kingsolver brings all of the novelist’s intrigue and style into this non-fiction work[;…] the lessons you can take from the book might haunt you for years […Her] riveting telling of the strikes […is] a provocative and thick description of a labor dispute from the ground up. […T]he focus of the book is really on the role of women in the strikes. […] The book artfully explores the different opportunities women had to protest and support the strike[,…] explores the family dynamics when primary earnings shifted from husband to wife[,and]  how “women’s auxiliaries” were often so much more than auxiliary. “—Jennifer Earl, Mobilizing Ideas 

December 2, 2015

Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader by Esther McCoy, Valencia, CA : East of Borneo, ©2012. 

“[…T]he book is a far cry from your average architectural text as the subject of the book and its primary speaker, Esther McCoy, is somewhat of a wild card when it comes to architecture, writing, and architectural writing. …[T]he eclectic selection of correspondences, published and unpublished articles, personal memoirs and case studies work together to produce an image of a woman who ventured into the architecture world with little more than words and confidence and emerged as one of the most prolific architectural writers of her time.”—Association for Women in Architecture and Design blog

January 27, 2016

  cover of Giant    Giant by Edna Ferber, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1952.

“If you’ve seen the movie, it is pretty faithful to the book, […]. It’s the story of a completely different way of life. We are meant to share Leslie’s view as an outsider, and be confused, appalled, and enamored with the many aspects of Texas ranching life. The fantastic ballsy egos of the men and women who live there and how those egos help them survive the tough conditions but blind them to any opposing viewpoints. ”—Lee Anne, Goodreads.com


February 24, 2016

cover of mink riverMink River by Brian Doyle, Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2010.

“Doyle’s language is rich, lush, equal to the verdant landscape he describes, and his narrative ricochets with a wondrous blending of the real and magical from character to character as he tracks the intersecting lives of Neawanaka [Oregon] one summer.[…] His magic is his ability to blend the minute details of small-town everyday life with the make-believe such that the daily lives of his multiple characters are not overshadowed by his lyrical language and make-believe elements but enhanced by them. […] All of the stories here end happily, more or less.– Greg Sarris, The Chronicle


March 23, 2106

cover of Fielas childFiela’s Child by Dalene Matthee, New York: Knopf, 1986 .  “In this colorful and moving […] late-19th-century South African landscape […] with a simple[…], strong[…] story and a wonderful sense of pace and scale,”Fiela’s child” is Benjamin Komoetie, 12 years old at the time of the first South African census in the Long Kloof badlands above the fishing town of Knysna. The Africaans census takers find Benjamin–a white boy, origins unknown–living among blacks, and remove him; a backward, white forest-family comes to Knysna to claim him as their missing son, lost in the forest on the Long Kloof’s southern ridge nine years before. […]The characters in this novel live and breathe; and the landscape is so brightly painted that the trees, birds, elephants and rivers of old South Africa are characters themselves. .’’— Kirkus Review

April 27, 2016

cover of sea and sardiniaSea and Sardinia by D.H. Lawrence, edited by Mara Kalnins.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 

“His eyes linger on the texture of the scene, the costumes, the dingy interiors, the rich displays of streets and markets. He is an imagist writing nervous, luminous prose that for once has movement to it avoiding the concentration upon merely visual images that so often causes eye strain on the part of those who read him and his fellow poets.”– Carl Van Doren, Nation  “This 1997 edition restores censored passages & corrects corrupt textual readings to reveal for the first time the book Lawrence himself called ‘a marvel of veracity’“— Publisher.

cover of latitudesMay 18, 2016

LAtitudes: An Angeleno’s Atlas edited by Patricia Wakida, Berkeley, California:

Heyday, [2015] .   “When I created my atlas of San Francisco, I was hoping that we were at the dawn of a new era of inventive, subversive, gorgeous mapping and social geographies. Let a thousand atlases bloom, I kept muttering, and  I couldn’t be more pleased that the first horse out of the gate—first tiger lily in the flowerbed?—is of the city of angels and overpasses and pastrami and tacos, of forgotten rivers, wars, refugees, voters, homesteaders, of dreams busy biting the dust and tribes miraculously reappearing. Cities are inexhaustible; they exist in countless versions, depending on who you ask and where you go and what you want; and an atlas like LAtitudes invites you to open up other people’s versions and in so doing find your own.”—Rebecca Solnit, author of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas

June 29, 2016

cover of Paradise SkyParadise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale, New York, NY: Mulholland Books / Little, Brown and Company, 2015.  Reading [it] is to immerse oneself in a realm of roughneck, shoot-’em-up western writing where fact and fiction blend effortlessly on the page, & the action is only outgunned by the author’s tilt for beautiful literary prose. […] His writing keeps you riveted by fleet pacing, bawdy characters, sharp-witted banter, & enough action to stampede a cavalry train, but it’s never cheap, it’s never gratuitous. Instead he fills each page with heartbreak, suspense, hope, & laughter […]. [His characters are] fallible, impassioned, the type of people you could imagine filling your own life, only these characters are ratcheted up tenfold, magnifying the ugliness of their lusts, the shock of their misfortunes, the satisfaction of recompense. — Eric J. Guignard , New York Journal of Books





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