Thanks to everybody who showed up to discuss May’s Field Notes selection, Alternate Side, by Anna Quindlen. We had an interesting and wide ranging discussion about privilege and New York City and marriage and other issues raised by the book. We also made our selection for June, though it was so evenly divided that in the end we had to decide via a coin flip. The next book is The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, by Jon Meacham, copies of which will be here at The Field Library for pickup this week.
A New York Times bestselling history book, The Soul of America does what the best of history does: it illuminates the present by looking closely at our shared past. If you’re feeling depressed about how divided America seems to be these days, and despairing of the possibility of the country’s pulling together and making progress, you’re exactly the person Meacham wrote this book for. A greater understanding of American history will make it clear that we have been in bad places before, in places where the divisions between Americans have seemed intractable and hopeless, and that on those prior occasions we have managed to overcome those divisions, not always easily and never perfectly, but enough to continue as one nation striving for the promise of the American dream. Meacham doesn’t just talk in generalities, either, but looks at specific people in specific times and places, studying Reconstruction in the 1870’s, anti-immigration panics in the 1920’s, the rise of demagogues like McCarthy and Father Coughlin, the fights for women’s suffrage and for civil rights, and examining how ordinary people behaved in extraordinary ways.
As someone who loves history and has a degree in history, I’m delighted that we’ve chosen this particular book, and I’m looking forward to vigorous discussions on June 15, when the Field Notes Book Group meets again. As always, there will be donuts and coffee and lots of thought-provoking questions and issues, so be sure to come in and get your copy and then join us in June.