September 15, 2010
Reading the Western Landscape - Current Books
The Reading the Western Landscape Book Group explores the portrayal of western North American landscape in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. The group generally meets the 1st Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at the Arboretum Library. See the dates below. There will be some Saturdays as well. 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 welcome.
Please RSVP to the librarian, Susan Eubank via phone at 626-821-3213 or via email if you plan on attending the book group discussion.
Books that the group has previously discussed can be found here.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on the Big Dry, a Memoir by Joe Wilkins, Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2012.
“Wilkins nails the sense of this place dead-on with poet’s eyes […] and musician’s ears […] The snap shirts, feed store ball caps, Rainier beer cans, antelope breakfast steaks, Chinook winds and the opaque plastic sheets covering windows in the winter […]The [book] is another poignant lesson in reconciling ourselves with our natural environment. ‘We need to remember how it really was and is out West, and we need to tell those true new stories…’” Chris Bowman, Capital Public Radio
Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2013.
“Like most of the characters in [Jack Kerouac’s] “On the Road,” “Terry” was based on a real person. Bea Franco was her name, and she was the daughter of farm-working Mexican immigrants. In his poignant new novel […] the San Joaquin Valley-raised poet […] reconstructs Franco's life and her passionate, life-changing encounter with the famous writer in autumn 1947. […R]eading Hernandez feels like being transported into a time machine and being shown other textures in the California landscape that Kerouac, an outsider, could not possibly have seen.” — Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
The Orchardist: A Novel by Amanda Coplin, New York, NY : Harper, 2012.
“Coplin’s mesmerizing debut stands out with its depictions of uniquely Western personalities and a stark, gorgeously realized landscape that will settle deeply into readers’ bones. In the early twentieth century, Talmadge lives alone amid his huge spread of fruit trees in Washington’s Wenatchee Valley. […] The prose abounds with poetic imagery, and the quotation-mark-free dialogue […] emphasizes the melding of these solitary characters with the vast, wild place they choose to call home.”— Sarah Johnson, Booklist
Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:00 p.m
My Ántonia by Willa Sibert Cather, Boston: H. Mifflin, 1918.
“Cather is our quietest Modernist. That is to say, she was innovative in her approach to her work, but novels such as My Ántonia were written in such a deceptively plain prose style that their robust, formal originality, their delicious complexities can easily be missed. The story is told in the male-gendered voice of Jim Burden […]. Through Burden, Cather uses landscape not merely as backdrop, but as a kind of character, dynamically interactive with Ántonia's family as well as everyone else in Black Hawk.”— Bradford Morrow, You Must Read This, NPR
Wednesday June 4, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in North New Mexico by Stanley G. Crawford Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988.
Stanley Crawford has [. . .] turned the history of an acequia into a startling and lovely celebration of life. […His] artistry draws the reader [. . .] into the lives of those simple and strong people [. . . The] narrative technique effectively leads the reader through the past's mundane tasks of yearly digging and scraping ditches [and] illustrates the joy of 'living life deliberately' without modern conveniences–it reveals […] the strength and hardihood found only in those who live close to the land and depend on the environment for survival. It is a testament to the human spirit . . . — Western American Literature
For more information about the Reading the Western Landscape Book Group, please contact the Arboretum Librarian, Susan Eubank, at 626-821-3213 or via email.