We have three clubs:two "general" bok clubs and one science book club.

If you would like to know more about, or join, our "General" Book Clubs, please contact
Iris Shah at (747) 300-2214 or to e-mail her; or
Chris Smith at (818)701-3006 or
click to e-mail her.
For information regarding the Science Book Club, please contact Heidemarie Lundblad at 805-484-8941 or at heidemarie.lundblad@csun.edu.
New members are always welcome!


ARF Science Book Club

Report of the meeting of July 15th, 2015 submitted by Heidemarie Lundblad.

The meeting was attended by Adam Gifford; Linda Jones; Bill Hosek; Virve Leps; Sandy Jewett; Heidemarie Lundblad; and Elzbieta Trybus. We discussed James Fallon’s book Psychopath:  A Neuropath's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain. 
We all agreed that the book is well written and was easy to read. However, opinions varied regarding the content. Most of us expected a scholarly discussion of psychopathy and the usefulness of brain imaging scans to determine this mental aberration. However, when we discovered that most of the book is an autobiography in which the author explores his behavior after he discovers that his brain scan is identical with that of diagnosed psychopaths.
While some of the members felt that they would like to meet and interact with Fallon, most of us considered him less than attractive. The book does explain some of the scientific exploration of the brain and DNA analysis used to identify persons who behave in a psychopathic manner. Virve Leps pointed out that the author’s brain scan had not been replicated and thus he might not actually have the characteristic brain configuration of a psychopath. However, most of us, based on the author’s description of his attitudes and behaviors were quite satisfied that he fits the profile. While the author appears self-satisfied with his diagnosis, he also stresses that he is a well socialized psychopath – i.e., he has not killed anyone. Of course, since, as he is proud to tell us repeatedly, he is a proficient liar, how do we know there are no bodies buried? I believe that the following quote by M.M. Billings (Amazon reviewer) is a good description of the author:

“He is a self-absorbed, arrogant, selfish person, who always puts himself first. And, worse yet, he puts those around him in actually physical danger to their very life, for the sole reason of having a ‘thrill’. How is that pro-social?”

The book club is scheduled to meet on August 19th to discuss Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth by Chris Stringer, 2012
(Originally published in the UK in 2011 as “The Origin of our Species”). Available in hardcover, paperback, kindle, e-text. I found it very interesting, especially because the author gives a lot of detail explaining how science can determine all sorts of interesting things about our very distant ancestors. Unfortunately, I will be out of town on that date and am looking for a volunteer to take notes at that meeting.

We do not have a book picked for September. In the past we always had a book picked for two months in advance. This gives members more time to actually acquire and read a selected book before we meet. I strongly urge the members to pick books for both September and October at the next meeting. If you are unable to attend in August but expect to be there in September and/or October, send me your recommendation and we may conduct an email poll.

Since I will not be there in August, I am recommending that we pick the following two books:

Jim Dole recommends: The Gluten Lie: and other myths about what you eat Alan Levinovitz, April 2015. Available in Hardcover, Kindle, Audio (various versions)

Phyllis Russel recommends: The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos by Leonard Mlodinow (2015) Hardcover, new and used; e-text – kindle; audio and audioCD
A Recommendation from Sandy Jewett: How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman (2008).  Sandy’s comment: It should really be titled "How Doctors DON'T Think! 
Please note that this is a different book than: How Doctors Think: Clinical Judgment and the Practice of Medicine Paperback – November 1, 2012 by Kathryn Montgomery
Jonathan Waldman : 2015;
Adam Rogers: Proof: The Science of Booze Available in Hardcover, paperback, kindle and audio.
Steven Weinberg: To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science Hardcover, Other Formats: Audible Audio Edition, Audio CD
Helen Macdonald: H is for Hawk Mar 3, 2015.
Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers: The Story of Success
Adam Gifford will research books by J. Searle and make a recommendation. We need more suggestions!

Heidemarie Lundblad, PhD

All meetings unless otherwise noted take place in the Oviatt Library third floor administration conference room at 1:30 pm.

John says the Science Book Club members look like a pretty happy bunch. (Taken at the October 2012 meeting)

Here's a more recent (11/19/14) attempt by John to document the club's activities and check out the workings of his new calligraphy app.

Spring 2011
ARF's Tuesday book group, headed by Ron Schaffer, chose for its April reading Barry Unsworth's Booker Prize-winning 1992 novel Sacred Hunger. Those present for the discussion at Ron and Robbie Schaffer's home were Len Pitt, Frank McGinnis, Iris Shah, Jim Allen, and Robbie and Ron. Everyone seemed to enjoy reading this long (600+ pages) but captivating epic.
Sacred Hunger involves the British slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean colonies during the mid-1700s. Although there are a great many characters, the author focuses particularly on Erasmus Kemp, son in a well-to-do business family in Liverpool, and his cousin Matthew Paris, who signs on as the surgeon on the new slave ship Kemp's father is having built. We see vividly how drunken and penniless men were shanghaied into service as crew on the ship, how slaves were brought out from the coast of West Africa to the ship for potential sale to the captain, how captain Thurso tried to keep his crew in line by flogging for even slight infractions, how slaves were packed into the ship, how they were occasionally made to exercise by dancing in their shackles to a crew member's fiddling, and finally how Paris signaled a stop to Thurso's escalating cruelty to both slaves and crew, with huge consequences.
In addition to learning much about the human costs of the slave trade, we follow the lives of the Kemps back in England and quite a few of the ship's crew, some of whom we meet again after their ship crashes on the coast of Florida. Erasmus Kemp makes his way to the wilds of Florida to bring back his apparently mutinous cousin Paris to be hanged. I won't give away the ending, we all agreed that the entire story gains much power because of the author's underlying moral perspective, focused both on slavery and on how people should treat one another.

Iris Shah hosted our May meeting, when our book was Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks. Those in the discussion were Iris, Frank McGinnis, John Irving, Jim Allen, Len Pitt, and Ron and Robbie Schaffer.
The book takes place mostly during World War I in northeastern France, where the main character, Stephen Wraysford, was one of thousands of British troops trying to push back the Germans near Amiens. We first meet Stephen before the war, when he is in France on business and falls in love with Isabelle, with whom he has a child he only learns about years later. The many war chapters constitute the bulk of the book, but in those chapters we also follow Stephen's attempts to find Isabelle again or find love as he can.
At one point the book leaps unexpectedly ahead to the 1970s and Stephen's granddaughter. Elizabeth, unmarried and pregnant with her first child, is attempting to construct her family history. She is searching for records and any people who might have known her grandfather during the War so that she could interview them. She is partly successful in these efforts. Although we all thought the title of this book was not a good one, in its totality Birdsong seems to be a paean to the importance of love in human life regardless of whether those relationships fulfill traditionally appropriate forms. I also saw the book as a sad commentary on the fact that later generations may never know of key events and loves of family members who came before.
In the war years the author focuses on Wraysford, now an officer in the British army, but we also learn details of the lives, loves, fears, and deaths of many of his men. We readers in the group had all been aware of the trench warfare of World War I, but new to us was the extensive and very complex system of tunnels that miners on both sides constructed beneath and forward of the trenches for the purpose of laying mines. German and English tunnels sometimes came so close to each other that miners could listen to enemy footsteps. Being ripped apart by artillery or machine guns when advancing from trenches was hardly better than being buried alive in a collapsed tunnel. Although probably a good picture of warfare at that time, I and some of the others thought the author spent too much time in detailing trench warfare and tunneling.
Most, but not all of us, liked this book. Toward the end of the book I was quite moved by being immersed as I was in the lives of these different generations. At least one person in the group strongly disagreed, pointing out flaws in the book's construction and writing that made it not good literature.

Our group will not meet in June, but for our July 19 meeting we will read Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and on August 25 (a Thursday) we will discuss Charles Dicken's Great Expectations. We each may try to see the movie version of Great Expectations prior to our discussion.

Reported by Jim Allen