Reading the Western Landscape Community Book Discussion - The Arboretum
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Reading the Western Landscape Community Book Discussion

About the Community Book Discussion

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, but not always, meets the last Wednesday of the month in the Arboretum Library or out on the Arboretum grounds, pandemic, weather and sunlight permitting. When the weather is good and disease rates are low, the group will meet outside in appropriate places in the gloriously, beautiful grounds of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden with appropriate social distancing and masking. The group leader will decide each month whether the meeting will be in-person or on Zoom.

The group uses a modified version of the Shared Inquiry™ method developed by the Great Books Foundation.  The discussion is greatly enhanced if the chosen book of the month is read, although we welcome those who just want to listen. Let the host know you only want to listen. New participants 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.

For more information and to be added to the e-mail reminder list about the Community Book Discussion Group, please contact, Arboretum Librarian Emeritus, Susan Eubank, at Susan.Eubank@Arboretum.org.  You must RSVP to Susan for the discussions you would like to attend.

Burning Patience by Antonio Skármeta; Katherine Silver (Translator), New York : Pantheon Books, 1987.

October 26, 2022

Artful Lives by Beth Gates Warren. Los Angeles, Calif: J. Paul Getty Museum, ©2011.

ISBN: 1606060708

“One of the more hidebound notions about American art is that modern art photography was strictly an East Coast phenomenon, and that Los Angeles represented a cultural backwater…[The author’s] groundbreaking study of…icons Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather, thoroughly debunks this falsehood. [The] exhaustively researched tome reveals how Weston’s work greatly matured during the 1920s in the semi-rural Tropico, now southern Glendale. …Warren saw Weston as a complex figure, with as many shortcomings as lasting creative triumphs. ’I admire his work tremendously,…but he could be duplicitous and manipulative. He was extremely ambitious and driven. He had to support a family, after all.’”— Kirk Silsbee, Los Angeles Times

This captivating biography reveals the previously untold love story of Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather. Both were photographic artists at the center of the bohemian cultural scene in Los Angeles during the 1910s and 1920s, yet Weston would become a major Modernist photographer while Mather, who Weston ultimately expunged from his journals, would fall into obscurity. The book reveals how they and their entourage sought out the limelight as the Hollywood film industry came of age. Based on ten years of research and illustrated with extraordinary images, some never published, this history has a captivating range of characters, including Charlie Chaplin, Imogen Cunningham, Max Eastman, Emma Goldman, Tina Modotti, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Carl Sandburg. The lively text brings to life the ambiance of this exciting time in Los Angeles history as well as its darker side. Artful Lives exceeds any previously published account of this key period in Weston’s development and reveals Mather’s important contribution to it, making it an essential reference in Weston studies.


November 30, 2022 ON ZOOM

Grass by Joe C. Truett; Harry W. Greene (Foreword by).Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010.

ISBN: 0520258398

“[…The book] consists of twenty short essays, …which blend several narrative elements [including] the author[‘s]… own evolution in understanding the ecology of grasslands, and his journey of discovery from childhood… [H]e delves deep into the ecology of Western America, …revealing the enormous complexity of the interaction of humans with the Grass family that stretches far into our primal past … and how many ways we are still tethered to their ecology… I especially appreciated the thoughtful passages on ranching in the West–how utterly marginal it has always been, and how important it remains as an appropriate land use… The chapter about the black footed prairie dog was my favorite–…on this ubiquitous, seemingly abundant and yet very threatened creature…”. — Panayoti Kelaidis, Goodreads.com

Part autobiography, part philosophical rumination, this evocative conservation odyssey explores the deep affinities between humans and our original habitat: grasslands. In a richly drawn, anecdotally driven narrative, Joe C. Truett, a grasslands ecologist who writes with a flair for language, traces the evolutionary, historical, and cultural forces that have reshaped North American rangelands over the past two centuries. He introduces an intriguing cast of characters–wildlife and grasslands biologists, archaeologists, ranchers, and petroleum geologists–to illuminate a wide range of related topics: our love affair with turf and how it manifests in lawns and sports, the ecological and economic dimensions of ranching, the glory of cowboy culture, grasslands and restoration ecology, and more. His book ultimately provides the background against which we can envision a new paradigm for restoring rangeland ecosystems–and a new paradigm for envisioning a more sustainable future.


December 28, 2022 ON ZOOM

Always Coming Home by Úrsula K. Le Guin; Margaret Chodos (Illustrator); Todd Barton (Composed by); George K. Hersh (Contribution by). New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

ISBN: 9780060155452

“…Le Guin is among the … most respected American writers who regularly set their narrative in the future to force a dialogue with the here and now… [The book] is a slow, rich read, …a liberal utopian vision, rendered far more complex … by a sense of human suffering. …The novel is about an imaginary people living in a far distant future on the Pacific coast. As a native of Berkeley, Calif., who lives in Portland, Ore., Mrs. Le Guin obviously knows her fictional territory. Moreover, if anyone is the world’s greatest authority on the Kesh, it’s the author, since she invented them. .”—Samuel R. Delany, New York Times

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