One Year of Reading Through It

Last night marked the one-year anniversary of the Reading Through It Book Club. The anthology we were there to discuss, Tales of Two Americas, was a controversial topic. I didn't think it was especially interesting, but others considered it to be a worthy selection packed with important perspectives. The best pieces in the book — by Karen Russell, Edwidge Danticat, and Chris Offutt — inspired some conversation, but the book club's collective mind kept wandering.

It makes sense that an anniversary meeting should be reflective, and so our conversation was wide-ranging in subject matter. We talked about being tired of waking up to the continual assault of horrible news. We shared our techniques for staying sane. We thought back to some of our favorite and least favorite book club picks (The Righteous Mind was incredibly useful for most of us; Hillbilly Elegy was not.) We discussed what it means that Democrats are wrestling with the legacies of several high-profile sexual harassers, while Republicans are somehow absolving themselves of any responsibility in this age of #MeToo.

People talked a lot about feeling hopeless. And that's to be expected — this first year of Trump's presidency, with Congress and the Supreme Court tilted in his favor, was bound to make us feel powerless. But at the end of this year, as we tilt into 2018 and its midterm elections, we have to shake off that feeling of powerlessness and embrace our own capacity for change.

It's important to remember what matters. Sharing a meme on Facebook probably won't help the political situation at all, for instance. Donating some money to a congressional race in a swing district might very well make a difference. Calling your representative helps. Registering friends and family to vote will definitely create positive change. Remember to allocate time and resources toward positive change, and not just the actions that make us feel good.

Most of all, it's important to keep talking and reading and processing and sharing. I've learned a lot from Reading Through It; the books have educated me about history and culture and inequality and justice, and the book club attendees have taught me about curiosity and humor and open-mindedness. I'm looking forward to the club's second year, in which we'll chart a path forward.

If you haven't yet attended, I hope you'll join us for Reading Through It at any of our future meetings. We meet on the first Wednesday of every month at Third Place Books Seward Park at 7 pm. We'll be discussing Weapons of Math Destruction on January 3rd, and Economics in Wonderland: Robert Reich's Cartoon Guide to a Political World Gone Mad and Mean on February 7th. The featured titles are always 20% off at Third Place in the weeks leading up to the reading.