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.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Our September required reading book was Betty Smith’s 1943 debut novel about an aspirational Irish-American girl in Williamsburg during the first two decades of the 1900s. It’s a coming-of-age story focusing on themes of education and poverty, that still hold relevance to this day.
This continued relevance was the primary topic of our discussion about the book. And it branched out from there to issues of social justice and political corruption in our contemporary life. The discussion was lively and we ran twenty-five minutes over our typical one hour. It was one of the best discussions we’ve had in this book club yet! It was great to have the input of a current Irish transplant (I didn’t ask if he was an ex-pat or not, so I’m not sure if he’s Irish-American or not… sorry!), as well as someone who works as an educator in our school system today.
Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clark
We don’t tend to read a lot of science-fiction in the Required Reading Revisited book club. For a long time, science-fiction wasn’t considered serious enough for literary consideration. But for our October reading I decided to branch out with what is considered “required reading” to include a book from an author who has undeniably influenced contemporary culture in multiple ways. And so while he’s maybe not academic required reading, I consider him to be cultural required reading. Arthur C. Clark may be one of the most influential science-fiction writers to have ever lived. He is undoubtedly most famous as being co-writer with Stanley Kubrick of the 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, widely regarded as one of the most influential films of all time. But Clark began publishing stories as early as 1937, when he was just twenty years old.
In addition to writing science-fiction, he was also a great science popularizer of his day (much like Neil deGrasse Tyson is today, and Carl Sagan before him). He was a futurist with a passion for space travel, which made its way into almost all of his writing. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society, twice, and was knighted in 1998 for “services to literature”. I recommend reading his Wikipedia page, as he is a fascinating individual.
Rendezvous With Rama, first published in 1973, is a hard science-fiction novel about mankind’s future contact with an alien vessel that is passing through the solar system, the origin and purpose of which is a mystery. The novel won numerous awards, and NASA’s Project Spaceguard, named after the same project in the book, has the same purpose… to detect Near Earth Objects, like asteroids. Rendezvous With Rama is often considered the cornerstone of Clark’s bibliography, and an excellent place to start if you’ve never read his work before.
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, October 11th). 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. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and Rendezvous With Rama 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, October 11th!