Book Club

Bright Leaf Book Club is a chance to meet like-minded readers and critically analyze and discuss a text. We select texts democratically, and read novels, short stories, poetry, and creative non-fiction. We meet monthly. Pizza is provided. Join us!

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Thursday, January 17  - 7:00 PM

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

“Like many epics, Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai charts the education of its hero and proceeds by means of a quest narrative. A boy undertakes rigorous training and goes in search of his father. What makes it a story of our time is that the boy lives in an insufficiently heated London flat with a single mother. What makes it singular is that his training begins at age 4, when he starts to learn ancient Greek, before quickly moving on to Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese, Finnish, etc. That’s not to mention his acquisition of mathematics, physics, art history, music, and an eccentric taste for tales of world exploration.

“Is this boy, Ludo, a genius? Sibylla, his mother, is of two minds about it. She recognizes that she’s done something out of the ordinary by teaching the kid The Iliad so young, following the example of J.S. Mill, who did Greek at age 3. She knows he’s a ‘Boy Wonder’ and she encourages him in every way to follow his omnivorous instincts. But she also believes that the problem with everybody else—literally everybody else—is that they haven’t been properly taught and have gone out of their way, most of the time, to avoid difficult things, like thinking. Otherwise we’d be living in a world of Ludos.

“DeWitt’s novel is infused with the belief that any human mind is capable of feats we tend to associate with genius… That art and knowledge, achievement and adventure, are worthy things in and of themselves, not just as a means of attaining capital or worldly status—this is the idea that anchors The Last Samurai.”

-Christian Lorentzen, Vulture


Thursday, February 21  - 7:00 PM

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck

Visitation's central character is a place. In a grand house and its grounds, by a lake in Brandenburg, a succession of occupants dislodge each other, borne along by the political calamities of 20th century Europe. The Jewish family who own the property in the 1930s are forced to sell while they wait for visas out of the Third Reich. An architect renovates the house; at the end of the second world war, it's requisitioned by the Russian army; then, under the GDR, the architect has to flee for having done illegal business with the west. The place is reclaimed by returning exiles from Siberia, then resold by estate agents.

“[T]he amount of emotional engagement Erpenbeck manages to win from us, in a mere 150 pages, is just one proof of her mastery. In marked contrast to the unearned love that inflated novels so often demand, Visitation allows us to feel we've known real individuals, experienced the slow unfolding of history, and bonded unconditionally with a place, without authorial pestering or pathos-cranking.”

-Michel Faber, The Guardian

Previous Selections


June 2017 Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

July 2017 Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

August 2017 10:04 by Ben Lerner

September 2017 Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim

October 2017 The Sellout by Paul Beatty

November 2017 Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

December 2017 Children with Enemies by Stuart Dischell

January 2018 Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

February 2018 Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

March 2018 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

April 2018 The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

May 2018 Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

June 2018 The Changeling by Joy Williams

July 2018 Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan

August 2018 The Weird and the Eerie by Mark Fisher

September 2018 American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes

 October 2018 July’s People by Nadine Gordimer

November 2018 Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

December 2018 Stoner by John Williams