Wednesday, December 20; 7:00PM - 8:00PM

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, drama, and poetry.  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!

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

January 31, 2018

California Mexicana Missions to Murals, 1820–1930 edited by Katherine Manthorne, Laguna Beach, California: Laguna Art Museum in association with University of California Press, 2017. 

ISBN: 9780520296367

“[The book…] focuses for the first time on the range & vitality of artistic traditions growing out of the unique amalgam of Mexican & American culture that evolved in Southern California from 1820 through 1930. […F]eaturing painters, printmakers, photographers, & mapmakers from both sides of the border, this collection demonstrates how they made the Mexican presence visible in their art. [The book] addresses […] how Mexico became California, & how the visual arts reflected the shifting identity that grew out of that transformation.” —Publisher’s website.

Following the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-1848), lands that had for centuries belonged to New Spain, and later to Mexico, were transformed into the thirty-first state in the United States. This process was facilitated by visual artists, who forged distinct pictorial motifs and symbols to establish the state’s new identity. This collective cultural inheritance of the Spanish and Mexican periods forms a central current of California history but has been only sparingly studied by cultural and art historians. California Mexicana focuses for the first time on the range and vitality of artistic traditions growing out of the unique amalgam of Mexican and American culture that evolved in Southern California from 1820 through 1930. A study of these early regional manifestations provides the essential matrix out of which emerge later art and cultural issues. Featuring painters, printmakers, photographers, and mapmakers from both sides of the border, this collection demonstrates how they made the Mexican presence visible in their art. This beautifully illustrated catalogue addresses two key areas of inquiry: how Mexico became California, and how the visual arts reflected the shifting identity that grew out of that transformation.   Published in association with the Laguna Art Museum, and as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.   Exhibition dates: Laguna Art Museum: October 15, 2017-January 14, 2018


February 28, 2018

Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond edited by Suzanne Lummis, Venice, CA: Beyond Baroque Books, [2015]. 

 ISBN: 9781892184030

“[…P]oetry as observation, […]poetry as piecing together, […] poetry as a way to see beneath the surfaces of a city that still, to some extent, defines itself by surfaces is central to “Wide Awake.” It is both a diverse collection and a consistent one, a framing of voices, all trying to make sense of not Los Angeles in the abstract, but on the most concrete, experiential terms. Lummis is an ideal guide for this endeavor — poet, anthologist, long-time L.A. literary booster […H]er intent here is not to showcase any particular school or aesthetic, but rather the range of Southern California poetry.”— David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

WIDE AWAKE draws together nationally acclaimed poets and gifted newer writers—one hundred twelve poets of Los Angeles and its surrounding territories—whose work speaks to the humanity, pathos and comedy, of what may be the most romanticized and scorned, disparaged and exalted of the world’s great cities. With respect to style, the selections range from the narrative to the more open-ended or non-sequential, classic formal verse to robust vernacular, and in this way speak to the lively state of North American poetry in our age. Poets include David St. John, Wanda Coleman, Cecilia Woloch, Lynne Thompson, Timothy Steele, Kate Gale, Gail Wronsky, Terry Wolverton, Luis J. Rodriguez, Tony Barnstone, Robin Coste Lewis, William Archila and Melissa Roxas.


March 28, 2018

Ordinary Light by by Tracy K Smith, New York: Vintage, 2016. ©2015

ISBN: 9780345804075

“[…]Smith is trying, as she can, to answer her late mother’s spiritual quest with her own. Her remarkable poetry – she has published three volumes thus far, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Life on Mars– has featured her mother and father before, if in flashes. But [the book] offers a longer, fuller illumination of their histories, as Smith tries to understand her own 1970s-era middle-class Californian upbringing in relationship to the brutality of black life in America during the 1950s.”—Alexander Chee, The Guardian

One of the Best Books of the Year The New York Times * The Washington Post * San Francisco Chronicle * Denver Post * In Ordinary Light, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith tells her remarkable story, giving us a quietly potent memoir that explores her coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter. Here is the story of a young artist struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.

April 25, 2018

Karl Bodmer’s America Revisited by Robert M. Lindholm (Photographer); W. Raymond Wood (Intro and Notes by); Karl Bodmer (Artist); David C. Hunt (Foreword by), Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.

ISBN: 9780806138312

“In 1832 Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied and his hired illustrator, Karl Bodmer, journeyed into the heart of America […] Bodmer’s images alone could have sufficiently described the trip visually, but the rephotography of the same places adds a compelling layer to an already fascinating journey. […This] is an endeavor that is pleasing and quite entertaining, connecting us in a tangible way to a past that usually seems remote.”— Rachel M. Sailor, The Annals of Iowa

Less than thirty years after Lewis and Clark completed their epic journey, Prince Maximilian of Wied–a German naturalist–and his entourage set off on their own daring expedition across North America. Accompanying the prince on this 1832-34 voyage was Swiss artist Karl Bodmer, whose drawings and watercolors–designed to illustrate Maximilian’s journals–now rank among the great treasures of nineteenth-century American art. This lavishly illustrated book juxtaposes Bodmer’s landscape images with modern-day photographs of the same views, allowing readers to see what has changed, and what seems unchanged, since the time Maximilian and Bodmer made their storied trip up the Missouri River. To discover how the areas Bodmer depicted have changed over time, photographer Robert M. Lindholm and anthropologist W. Raymond Wood made several trips over a period of years, from 1985 to 2002, to locate and record the same sites–all the way from Boston Harbor, where Maximilian and Bodmer began their journey, to Fort McKenzie, in modern-day western Montana. Pairing sixty-seven Bodmer works side by side with Lindholm’s photographs of the same sites, this volume uses the comparison of old and new images to reveal alterations through time–and the encroachment of a built environment–across diverse landscapes. Karl Bodmer’s America Revisited is at once a tribute to the artistic achievements of a premier landscape artist and a photographer who followed in his footsteps, and a valuable record of America’s ever-changing environment.

May 23, 2017

A Manual for Cleaning Women by by Lucia Berlin, edited by Stephen Emerson, foreword by Lydia Davis. New York: Picador, 2016. ©2015.

ISBN: 9781250094735

June 27, 2018

Not Without Laughter by by Langston Hughes New York: A.A. Knopf, 1930.

ISBN: 9780143131861

“Although […]semi-autobiographical, the family Hughes created for Sandy was quite unlike his own. Hughes said: “I wanted to write about a typical Negro family in the Middle West, about people like those I had known in Kansas.” Hughes based the fictional town of Stanton on Lawrence, and many of the people, places and events in the novel were inspired by real people, places and events that Hughes knew or experienced during his childhood […].” — Maria Butler, Lawrence Journal-World

Our greatest African American poet’s award-winning first novel, about a black boy’s coming-of-age in a largely-white Kansas town When first published in 1930, Not Without Laughter established Langston Hughes as not only a brilliant poet and leading light of the Harlem Renaissance but also a gifted novelist. In telling the story of Sandy Rogers, a young African American boy in small-town Kansas, and of his family–his mother, Annjee, a housekeeper for a wealthy white family; his irresponsible father, Jimboy, who plays the guitar and travels the country in search of employment; his strong-willed grandmother Hager, who clings to her faith; his Aunt Tempy, who marries a rich man; and his Aunt Harriet, who struggles to make it as a blues singer–Hughes gives the longings and lineaments of black life in the early twentieth century an important place in the history of racially divided America. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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© 2015 Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens

Phone: 626.821.3222

301 N. Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA, 91007

Site Design by Kirk Projects