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 January 20, 2016; submitted by Heidemarie Lundblad

Attending were Adam Gifford, Linda Jones, Virve Leps; Phyllis Russell; John Motil; Elizabeth Trybus; Sandy Jewett; Bill Hosek; and Heidemarie Lundblad.
The book discussed was: Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina.
The book is written in an easy to read style, clearly addressed to a general audience. While it does have a section titled "notes", no citations, references are included in the text itself. Some members found that a bit odd. The book primarily consists of anecdotal reports of animal behavior that supports the belief that animals have feelings, personalities and can think. Several of the group members found the book highly interesting, however, some felt it was overly anecdotal and weak in the promised link between new research in the brain and animal behavior. We agreed that the author's objective appeared to be drawing attention to the destruction of the environment of wild animals, which perhaps explains the emphasis on the behavior of elephants, wolves and killer whales.
The next meeting will be on February 17th in the Oviatt Library 3rd floor conference room. We will discuss The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley. (Oct 27, 2015) Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, kindle, etc.
The following books were selected for the March and April meetings:
March 16th: How Doctors Think (Jerome Groopman, 2008) Available in hardcover; paperback; Kindle; audio; MP3CD
April 20th: Rust: The Longest War 2015 (Jonathan Waldman); Available in Hardcover, Paperback and Kindle and Audiobook.
Future meeting dates: March 16th; April 20th; May 18th**; June 15th; July 20; August 17th; September 21st.
Books to think about for future discussion:

The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley Jan 5, 2016, by Eric Weiner
" The Geography of Genius, acclaimed travel writer Weiner sets out to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas. He explores the history of places, like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, and Silicon Valley, to show how certain urban settings are to ingenuity Sharp and provocative, The Geography of Genius redefines the argument about how genius came to be. His reevaluation of the importance of culture in nurturing creativity is an informed romp through history that will surely jumpstart a national conversation. "
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (January 11, 2005) Malcolm Gladwell
"Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept?"

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (October 1, 2013) Malcolm Gladwell
"In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks."
Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson ; Oct 20, 2015
Note this is a revised second edition! Available in hardcover, paperback. Other Formats:MP3 CD, Hardcover, Audible Audio Edition

"Social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson examine how the brain is wired for self-justification and offer many important psychological insights for responsible behavior patterns in Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. It goes beyond most self-help titles to address the physiological makeup and patterns behind denial, false memories, and more, and pairs research with case history examples and insights on how self-justification develops and damages relationships and lives. An important pick not just for psychology holdings, but for any general-interest collection." (Midwest Book Review)
Steven Weinberg: To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science Hardcover, Other Formats: Audible Audio Edition, Audio CD Jun 7, 2011. Available in Hardcover, Paperback and Kindle and Audiobook.
"A masterful commentary on the history of science from the Greeks to modern times, by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg a thought-provoking and important book by one of the most distinguished scientists and intellectuals of our time. In this rich, irreverent, and compelling history, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg takes us across centuries from ancient Miletus to medieval Baghdad and Oxford, from Plato's Academy and the Museum of Alexandria to the cathedral school of Chartres and the Royal Society of London. He shows that the scientists of ancient and medieval times not only did not understand what we understand about the world they did not understand what there is to understand, or how to understand it. An illuminating exploration of the way we consider and analyze the world around us, To Explain the World is a sweeping, ambitious account of how difficult it was to discover the goals and methods of modern science, and the impact of this discovery on human knowledge and development."
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives: (2008) Leonard Mlodinow. Available in hardcover, paperback, kindle, audio, etc.
Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells: Helen Scales May 2015; Available in hardcover, paperback, kindle Helen Scales, a marine biologist, has been nursing a fascination with seashells since she was a child, and her love of the subject shows. She "moves easily between science, symbolism, and story," beginning with an explanation of how the 200,000 species of mollusk on the planet secrete the calcium carbonate that hardens into dazzling fans and logarithmic spirals. But humans figure prominently in her story, too from the slave traders who used shells as currency to the mathematicians who last century finally sorted out how snails build the homes they do. Adam Rogers: Proof: The Science of Booze Available in Hardcover, paperback, kindle and audio.
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) Apr 17, 1997 by Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton

"Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thrived on outrageous adventures. Here he recounts in his inimitable voice his experience trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek; cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets; accompanying a ballet on his bongo drums; painting a naked female toreador. In short, here is Feynman's life in all its eccentric a combustible mixture of high intelligence, unlimited curiosity, and raging chutzpah."

Note: This is a book that apparently has little to do or say about science instead focuses on Feynman's exploits, stories of how much smarter he is than anyone else. It seems to appeal to the "nerdy" sense of humor.

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