Reading Group

I started a reading club in Philadelphia that first met in October 1988, with four people. We met (and they continue to meet) in one another’s homes for a potluck dinner followed by discussion. The host picks the next book. In 1995 we decided to try having broad themes in an attempt to improve the quality of our discussions, which has varied widely over time. In general, the themes have helped the discussions. Following is a list of the books we read up to the time I moved to Boston. This isn’t a definitive list, as we weren’t the best at record-keeping. It took several years, after all, before we realized we were creating a tradition.

Books by year

Books by theme

The books

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

Shikasta by Doris Lessing

The Coup by John Updike

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol

The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall

Natural Enemies by Jane Langton

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

The Delicacy and Strength of Lace by Leslie Silko and James Wright

Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Tell My Horse by Zora Neale Hurston

The Snow Queen by Joan Vinge

The Power of Silence by Carlos Castaneda

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe

Tripmaster Monkey by Maxine Hong Kingston

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou


Eco-Warriors by Rik Scarce

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

The Europeans by Henry James

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

A Midwife’s Tale by Martha Ballard and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett


My Son’s Story by Nadine Gordimer

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

Ulysses by James Joyce

Iron John by Robert Bly

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Kinds of Love by May Sarton

Street Lives by Stephen Vanderstay

Breaking and Entering by Joy Williams

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

A Prayer for Owen Meanie by John Irving


Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson

Tehanu by Ursula LeGuin

A Natural History of the Senses by Dianne Ackerman

Sarah Canary by Fowler

In Evil Hour by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Measure of My Days by Florida Maxwell Scott

A Cordial Water by M.F.K. Fisher

House of Exile by Nora Waln

Women Respond to the Men’s Movement

No Name in the Street by James Baldwin

Sex, Art, and American Culture by Camille Paglia


Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

A Chorus of Stones by Susan Griffin

The Last Magician by Janett Turner Hospital

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry

Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Nicholas Hoeg


Run River by Joan Didion

France (our first theme)

La Dame aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas, fils

Indiana by George Sand

Funeral Rites by Jean Genet

César Birotteau by Honore de Balzac

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert


Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Travels by Marco Polo

Investment Biker by Jim ?

Orphan Trains by ??? Holt


Sangoma by James Hall

The Log of the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

Mutant Message Down Under by Margo Morgan


God, a Biography by Jack Miles

Inferno by Dante

A Brief History of Everything by Ken Wilber

A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters

Muhammed: A Biography of the Prophet by Karen Armstrong

The Book of J by Harold Bloom and David Rosenberg

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn


The time between the wars

Autobiography of Alice. B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

Emma Goldman in Exile: From the Russian Revolution to the Spanish Civil War by Alice Wexler

Death in Venice and other short stories by Thomas Mann

This I Remember by Eleanor Roosevelt

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies by Tom de Haven

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell


Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca

A Tousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Bronx Primitive by Kate Simon


Giants in the Earth by O. E. Rølvag

A Fatal Light by Richard Currey

Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass (or Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass or Life and Times of Frederick Douglass)

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Four Ways to Forgiveness by Ursula LeGuin

Amistad by Alex Pate or David Pesci


A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel (Tenth Anniversary of Group)

Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkirts

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

Southern writers writing about the South

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Six of One by Rita Mae Brown

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Winter Birds by Jim Grimsley

A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor


Places you’ve lived

Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party by George R. Stewart (I’m from California.)

Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin by Alice Echols (Barbara lived in Northern California in the ’60s.)

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Todd lived in Florida.)

The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick (Gayle lived in Manhattan.)

Boys Like Us by Peter McGehee (Liz is from Arkansas.)

Living the Dream: A Documentary Study of Twin Oaks Community by Ingrid Komar (Taylor was part of Twin Oaks for ten years.)

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (Lucy lived in Nebraska.)

I Lock My Door Upon Myself by Joyce Carol Oates (Linda grew up in upstate New York.)

A book chosen by lottery (because we were having trouble picking a theme):

Plainsong by Kent Haruf


Pairs of books chosen by pairs of people

On the Beach by Neville Shute

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney

The Long Haul by Myles Horton

Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe

Emma by Jane Austen

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

African authors

Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta