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Wednesday, August 26; 7:00PM - 8:00PM

Reading the Western Landscape Book Group

About This Event

The Arboretum Library’s book group explores the portrayal of western North American landscape in fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry, letters, graphic novels, etc.  The group generally meets the last Wednesday of the month in the Arboretum Library or out on the Arboretum grounds, weather and sunlight permitting.  Some dates are not the last Wednesday. 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!  Click here to see the questions already asked for this year’s past books and check out the history of the book club by hovering on the tab and see all the previous years and books to explore.

COVID-19 Response: This group has decided to move the book club to Zoom for the immediate future. Please be sure to RSVP to Susan.Eubank@Arboretum.org if you would like to participate in a specific meeting.  You will be sent the Zoom link for that meeting.

For more information and to be added to the e-mail reminder list about the Book Group, please contact, Arboretum Librarian, Susan Eubank, at 626-821-3213 or Susan.Eubank@Arboretum.org.  Please be sure to RSVP to Susan if you plan to attend.


June 24, 2020

Attendanceby Rocio Carlos; Rachel McLeod Kaminer, Brooklyn, NY: The Operating System, ©2018. 

ISBN: 9781946031327

COVID-19 Response: This group has decided to move the book club to Zoom for the immediate future. Please be sure to RSVP to Susan.Eubank@Arboretum.org if you would like to participate in a specific meeting.  You will be sent the Zoom link for that meeting.

“This collaborative work is documentary poetry at its finest. The opening note explains … Attendance, “was born from Rocio’s description of going outside every morning to check on everything that grows in her backyard. Together we decided that one of us would attend to the flora and one of us would attend to the fauna…” The work comes in at over 200 pages mixing poems with reflections on natural locations like La Tuna Canyon, Altadena, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Echo Park Lake to dozens of other sites. In addition to geographic musings, there are words on hawks, ravens, species of trees, their families and politics. This is truly a unique book. — Mike Sonksen, KCET

Reading Attendance trains your attention on plants and animals until you can’t stop noticing them. It’s a way of moving through the natural world–which turns out to include the whole world. An almanac, a logbook, a devotional, a witness statement, poetry. A documentary not in the sense of capturing but in the sense of being a creature paying attention to the world we already live in. It’s a hybrid text: One year of two people reaching their arms across styles and genres. At times notes, at times lists, or run-on sentences, or poems, or things that want to be poems, but always plants, and always animals. The words are offered up with no correction or with the revision exposed. This is writing that includes where it comes from or writing that painfully doesn’t become. We hold so many questions about love and attention and violence.

Attendance is a meditation, an ushering-in of the kind of mindfulness that life deserves. One that leaves readers like me nodding and saying yes to lines like these: ‘Just try to want different things’ and ‘You can do anything you want with me as long as you do it slowly first.’ Carlos and Kaminer are power, and this book is plain gorgeous.”–Natashia Deón


July 29, 2020

Garden by the Sea by Mercè Rodoreda, translated by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent, First Open Letter ed., Rochester, NY: Open Letter, 2020.

ISBN: 9781948830089

“… Rodoreda writes a slow burn towards catastrophe. Rodoreda, who is considered one of the most important Catalan writers of the 20th century, wrote often […] in the years before and after the Spanish Civil War[…] She wrote with incredible deftness about the intimate domestic moments that constitute the majority of life[…]almost nothing happens on the page — much is hinted at, not a lot is said, and it’s the reader’s job (or privilege) to unspool her implications.—Eva Dunsky, Reading in Translation

“Rodoreda has bedazzled me by the sensuality with which she reveals things within the atmosphere of her novels.”–Gabriel García Márquez

The novel that defined Mercè Rodoreda’s most prolific period is finally available in English for the first time. Set in 1920s Spain,Garden by the Sea takes place over six summers at a villa by the sea inhabited by a young couple and their beautiful, rich, joyous friends. They swim, drink, tease each other, and fully enjoy themselves. All the while, the guests are observed by the villa’s gardener, a widower who’s been tending the garden for several decades. As the true protagonist of the novel, we get to see the dissolution of these magical summers through his eyes, as a sense of darkness and ending creeps in, precipitated by the construction of a new, larger, more glamorous villa next door. Considered by many to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, Rodoreda has captivated readers for decades with her exacting descriptions of life–and nature–in post-war Spain, and this novel will further her reputation and fill in an important piece of her oeuvre.


August 26, 2020

The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti by Susan A. Phillips. New Haven; London: Yale University Press [2019].

ISBN: 9780300246032

“Susan A. Phillips’s wonderfully researched book is truly unique in the study of graffiti. Not only has she examined the cultural origins of mark-making, but she also re-defines the geographical narrative, stealing the crown from New York and placing it on the head of the West Coast as the cultural epicenter of the birth of American graffiti.”—Aaron Rose, author of Beautiful Losers.

September 30, 2020

The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California by Mark Arax, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019.

ISBN: 9781101875209

“Traveling ‘from one end of California to the other, from drought to flood to wildfire to mudslide,’ he chronicles in absorbing detail the transformation of the state’s Central Valley from modest seasonal farms to huge agribusinesses exporting pistachios, almonds, mandarins, and pomegranates. Drawing on historical sources and nearly 300 interviews, Arax reveals the consequences to land and wildlife of generations of landowners who have defiantly dug, dammed, and diverted California’s waters. .”—Kirkus Reviews

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