In The Required Reading Revisited Book Club we focus on books considered “Required Reading” by most educational institutions, i.e. books you read (or were supposed to read) in school – either high school or university.
On Sunday, August 9th we discussed Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, a tale about a young Brahmin’s quest to find the ultimate truth. Written in 1922, the story was based largely upon Hesse’s own study and immersion in Hindu and Buddhist sacred texts. The novel wasn’t translated into English (from German) until 1951, and it found great success in the 1960’s American counter-culture movement, with its emphasis on self discovery and the seeking the ultimate truth of the universe (the Sanskrit word Siddhartha actually means “he who has found meaning of existence”).
The discussion group was larger and more diverse than we’ve had in several months. It was wonderful to have a number of perspectives on this tale. There was some discussion as to the accuracy of how Buddhism itself was portrayed in the narrative (mostly accurate), as well as how accurate the portrayal of India itself was (possibly a little on the romantic side). It was mentioned that this type of journey of self-discovery is not so much en vogue as it used to be, though the stages of discovery that Siddhartha experienced could be considered universal for anyone that does any honest self-reflection over their lifetime. Overall it was a lively discussion that ran several minutes passed our 5pm end time. I hope to see everyone back in September!
Our next book is the 1943 Betty Smith novel, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. The story is about an ambitious third-generation Irish-American girl and her impoverished family, who live in Brooklyn, NY in the first two decades of the 20th century.
The novel covers a number of topics from poverty, education, the American Dream, the loss of innocence, and several more. The novel was immensely successful when it was released and remains a well known classic. For many, it was the first novel with more adult themes and content that they read when growing up. And a bit of pop-culture trivia… in the ninth episode of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, Frank Perconte is seen reading the book while on guard duty in Germany during World War II.
The author, Betty Smith, was born to German immigrant parents in 1896 and grew up in Brooklyn. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was her first novel.
The Required Reading Revisited Book Club, hosted by Consuelo Hacker and Sarah Holdgrafer, meets on the 2nd Sunday of every month at 4pm at Book People (the next meeting is Sunday, September 13th). We typically meet on the 3rd floor. Just stop by the 1st floor information desk when you arrive if you are unsure where to go. Siddhartha and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn are both available online at Bookpeople.com. Use the code BOOK CLUB when purchasing online, or if you come in to the store, mention it’s for Book Club at the registers and you’ll receive 10% off! Join our Facebook page to get all the latest information on what we’re reading! We look forward to talking with you on Sunday, September 13th!