College of Liberal Arts Online Book Club

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Read and connect with CLA alumni

Join the online CLA Alumni Book Club to connect with fellow Gophers! In this online community, alumni can connect with each other and enjoy books related to lifelong learning, professional development, social issues, and more. There is no cost to participate—just get a copy of the book to enjoy! 

Join the virtual alumni book club

CLA Authors & Alumni: Schumacher and Angress

Watch the video recording of Authors & Alumni with author and Regents Professor of Creative Writing Julie Schumacher and Antonia Angress (MA '21, creative writing) during a virtual event on April 6, 2022, when they discussed their books The Shakespeare Requirement and forthcoming Sirens & Muses, the writing process, and all things academia—satirical and otherwise.

Current Book Discussion

The Henna Artist

The March 18-May 13 book club selection is The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi. This debut novel centers around Lakshmi and her struggle to maintain her independence in a world hostile to trailblazing women. 

“Author Alka Joshi’s evocative descriptions capture India’s sensory ambiance…drawing readers deep into her moving story. Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.” - Publisher’s Weekly 

“Joshi has constructed a bewitching glimpse into the not-so-distant past with a tough heroine well worth cheering on.” - Booklist

As described by HarperCollins:

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still, she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

Discussion around Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer kicks off May 27 and runs through July 22.  Described as “a smart, subtle overlay of different systems of thought that together teach us to be better citizens of Earth,” Braiding Sweetgrass is a transcendent work that finds its place among eco-lit giants like Rachel Carson and Henry David Thoreau. It collects striking autobiographical accounts from Kimmerer’s life and connects the human condition with earthly delights. It is the perfect book to reflect on your relationship with Nature, especially during an era where so many feel disconnected from it. 

Previous titles include:

The Long Bright River by Liz Moore
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher

Why You Should Join

Connect with fellow CLA alumni & friends

Joining the book club will introduce you to CLA alumni and friends across industries, generations, and geographies, while accommodating your engagement when and where you are most comfortable.

Be a part of a lifelong learning community

Improve your mind, gain wisdom, keep up with a constantly changing world and nurture a thirst for knowledge through the discussion, reflection, and sharing of perspectives with like-minded people in a safe platform.

Reading is good for you

Research has proven that when we read we become mentally stronger. From improving on focus and concentration, to developing stronger analytical thinking skills, to reducing stress, to reducing the chances of developing Alzheimer's later in life, the health benefits derived from reading are innumerable.

What to Expect Once You Join

Sign-up page

The sign-up page will include a description of how the book club works, answers to frequently asked questions, and information about the first book. The sign-up page will still be open for new participants throughout the year.

Content emails

This book club will be managed by PBC Guru. For each book, PBC Guru sends out emails with content that prompts discussions in the online forum. An email may include a link to a review, article, podcast, Ted Talk, or video. Other specialty emails provide a way to announce the vote for the next book, communicate with discussion leaders, and send out periodic surveys.

Online forum

The online forum is where book club members can introduce themselves, discuss the book and learn from other participants. Participants log in with the username and password that they created during the sign-up process. This is not a Zoom-style video call but rather a discussion forum where members can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. 

FAQs

The first book has been pre-selected in order to get the club up and running. Afterwards, alumni book club members will vote between several options each period and select each book based on participants’ interests.

Books will be read every two months. Each book will take an average of six hours to read, so if you have 30 minutes a week to read you’ll do just fine. If members of this virtual community are particularly busy with work, family, or other obligations and can't read or finish a book, that’s okay. If you can only read part of a book and contribute a little to the online discussion then that's okay too. The goal of this program is simply to connect CLA alumni through relevant, interesting topics.

No. All discussions around the books occur through an online forum. There will not be in-person or video-style discussions. The advantage is you can participate anywhere you have internet access and on days and times that are convenient to you. Members may be invited to streaming or in-person events in the future as an added benefit to the book club.

Participation is free for CLA alumni! You are responsible only for obtaining a copy of the book—you can buy, borrow, or download a copy of the chosen book.

Discussions will occur through an online forum. Our book club has a dedicated moderator who manages the forum and poses questions to the group, shares relevant articles, and facilitates conversation about topics in the book. Members are encouraged to post and share as well. This format allows for ongoing conversation and makes it easy for alumni to connect with each other. This will not occur in a Zoom-style or other video setting.

Professional Book Club (PBC) Guru helps companies and alumni associations implement and manage professional reading programs. The College of Liberal Arts is teaming up with PBC Guru to help make this alumni program a great experience for all participants.

We have answers! Feel free to send an email directly to Megan Mehl (mmehl@umn.edu) with CLA Alumni Relations and she’ll be happy to help.

Alumni can join the book club at any time and do not have to participate in every reading session. If you have questions please contact Megan Mehl in the CLA Alumni Relations Office at mmehl@umn.edu We look forward to reading with you!