Thursday, February 19, 2009

That's a lot of tea and cookies...

So Chancellor Martin wants to start a really big book club. Aside from my frustration about the pronunciation ambiguity ("red" or "reed"?), I think it sounds like a great idea. Reading a book as a community establishes a set of shared referents like almost no other experience can, and one of the hardest things about talking to people from different backgrounds is the (perceived?) lack of such referents.

I don't envy whomever will have to make the final book decision (presumably Biddy herself in consultation with some committee), because any choice is likely to alienate as many people as it excites. As I was mulling over nomination ideas, it occurred to me that a book on religion--perhaps particularly on religious pluralism--might be an appropriate choice, given the state of the world and our bitter divisions. But how do you choose one that's appropriately imaginative, informative, challenging, fair, and rigorous? Is fiction or non-fiction a better incubator for discussion? Is topical even the way to go? (If so, would something about our nation or world's infrastructure, technological/scientific literacy, or financial, educational, or food systems be more timely?) Is there any hope of fostering a thoughtful and sensitive discussion on such a large scale (even via a large number of class-or-smaller-sized discussions)? What do you think?

Drop us a comment if you've got a book idea, religious or otherwise. And consider dropping Chancellor Martin a similar line here.


  1. What about a book--fiction or non-fiction--that touched on some common human experience--something "existential"--but left the religious issues unaddressed? That way in the ensuing discussion people could raise those questions for themselves.

    P.S. I think it's supposed to be "red" ;)

  2. I'm inclined to agree, Leigh. The opposite approach can lead to choices like this (, which sounds like it lays the religion on a little thick (OK, a lot thick). Incidentally, the Twitter account owner for the above book started following me this morning. I wonder if it was in response to my Tweet about this post. I'd guess probably not, but I still thought it was interesting timing.