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As I mention elsewhere on this website, reading is neither as easy as it seems like it should be, nor is it as
impossible to get better at it as a lot of mediocre readers think. You can get better by practicing reading for
one thing. You can also improve your reading by thinking about how you read, by figuring out what you can
do to improve the quality of your reading, and by making connections between talking about what you read
and writing about what you read. Becoming a better reader will also help you become a better writer. Book
club will give you experience in these kinds of practices that good readers engage in.

Book Club is about the long haul. At some point in your college and life careers you’ll have to read something
long that takes some time to do and is maybe not what you would pick up to read in your spare time. That’s
what book club is designed to help you do.

What? Did you think I was going to give you some speech about the joy of reading? I admit: I love to read. I
could spend entire days reading if I had endless free time. But I know that most people are not that way. Do I
think that you can learn to enjoy reading certain books? Yes. Do I hope you’ll enjoy the book you read for this
class? Absolutely. But I’m not counting on it. My job is to help you read, remember, and usefully write about a
book even when you are not interested in it. Reality is, you will have to read very difficult texts that you do
not enjoy all the time throughout your college career. The goal of book club is to teach you how to successfully
do that.

Welcome to book club.

Details. You will be evaluated on your attendance and effort during book club meetings, the quality of your
book club journals, and your final presentations. In the first week of class we will form groups, and I’ll ask you
to pick what book you want (I use the term “pick” loosely) from the list below. You’ll meet with your book club
leader for the first time during the first few weeks of class and from then on out.


1. Forming Groups, Picking Texts. During the first days of class, you will get into groups and select your texts
from the books listed below. You will need to choose your text as a group. Each group will pick a number that
determines the order of which group gets to pick first, second, etc. I tell you this because no two groups will
read the same book, and you may not get to read your first choice. Sorry. That’s life.

2. Where/When Book Clubs meet. As I say here and elsewhere, Book Club is one of the activities you will
participate in in order to earn your 1 credit for ENGL 144. That means that you will meet during the class
period your ENGL144 book club group is scheduled for. Book clubs will start the Sept 19, 2016. They meet in
the Academic Achievement Center. For that first meeting, I (or somebody) will take you to where you will
meet your book club facilitator (a volunteer staff, faculty, or administrator from all over campus who wants to
read the book and talk with you about it—be nice to them). This part can seem confusing at first, but after that
first week it will become routine.

3. Read the Book. And I mean it. Read the book on your own time, a little at a time. Figure out during your
first book club meeting how many pages you should be reading per week. Add up the pages of the book and
divide it by the number of book club meetings you have. Keep a few meetings free to work on your book club
presentation (you should be done reading the book by Thanksgiving). Do not be that person that lets your
entire group down by not reading.
4. Write a Book Club Journal. At the start of each book club, you’ll have the chance to reflect on your reading
in writing. Your book club journals will be like hand written versions of your Reading Journals.
Spend some of the time summarizing what you’ve read so far. Spend some of the time trying to figure out
what the theme of the book is—what the author is trying to get you to understand about life and the world and
all of that. You can always write about what you don’t understand about the book. It’s always a good idea to
take a guess about it anyway—I’m not so worried about you being right. I want you to try to figure out the
book especially when you don’t entirely understand it. Sometimes, your facilitator will give you a specific
prompt to write about.

Your book club facilitator will collect your book club journals and get them to me. I will read them and give
you comments on them just like I do for the Reader’s Notes. When you get those comments back, you can
respond to them in the next journal you write. You can also use my comments to help you talk about the book
in book club.

You’ll reflect on the book club journals a couple of times during the semester, so hold on to them when you get
them back.

5. Talk about the Book. After you are done writing your journals, you will have some time to talk about the
book. I would suggest starting the book clubs by reading your journals out loud to each other. That will get
things started. Another thing you could do, as I say above, is read my comments out loud to each other. And
the added bonus there is that it will kill time because it will take awhile for you to figure out my handwriting.
You can also talk about what is confusing to you. You can talk about what is funny or sad or scary or
interesting or boring in the book. Just, you know, talk about the book. It might feel weird at first, but you can
do it.

NOTE: Your facilitator is NOT there to lecture. They just want to help you talk about the book. They’ve given
up their time to work with you. They want you to succeed. So I mean it: be nice to them. And, more than that,
be a fun and interesting part of their day, for crying out loud. Make them want to do this another semester.
Make them look forward to meeting you each week. Make them happy that they gave up their lunch break to
read and talk about a book with you.

6. Do a Little Outside Research; Present it to your groupmates. When I return your book club
journals to you, I will write a note every so often asking you to do a little research on some particular
topic that I think, if you and your group understood it better, you might understand the book better.
The more stuff you know in your head, the easier reading is. You don’t have to do a major research
paper when I ask you to do this. You can google it or use Wikipedia. This is low stakes research.
Type up what you learn (like a half page to a full page), and bring it to your book club. Read it to
your groupmates to help you discuss the book. Turn in what you write to your facilitator at the end
of book club and he/she will get it to me. You won’t have to do this every week. Different people will
do the research and present periodically throughout the semester. Everyone will go once or twice.


1. First, write a book cub journal reflection. During the book club meeting when you are all done with the
book, write a reflection on the experience. Write about all of the following

How did writing about the book in the journal help or not help you to read better?
How did talking about the book with others in the book club help or not help you to read better?

How did doing a little research about parts of your book help or not help you to read better?

Did you learn anything about how you might read other books for other classes from doing this project?

In the end, what did you think of your book?

2. Plan a presentation The presentation should be the last thing you do in book club, and should not be the
thing that dominates your conversations about the book all semester long. Specifics about what you will need
to present will come to you after midterm.


Participation in book club is one of the ways you will earn your one credit in ENGL144. And so, in the interest
of making sure this is perfectly clear, I will now repeat the attendance policy as it appears in the Policies for
this course (please note, in particular, the bolded portions of the passage):

Attendance and Preparedness for Class and ENGL144. What happens day-to-day in this class only works if we
are all here and ready to work as much as possible; therefore, attendance is mandatory. Here is my policy on
how absence will affect your evaluation in this class:

You are allowed three absences in ENGL101, free and clear, no excuses necessary.

You are allowed three additional absences in ENGL 144. Again, free and clear, no excuses

After your three absences in 101 and 144 (3 absences per class), any and all absences, regardless of the reason,
will adversely affect your final grade in the course you miss them in.

After six absences in 101 and 144 (6 absences per class), you will fail the course you miss them in.

Excessive late arrivals will accumulate to equal at least one absence.

you’ve been given placement in ENGL144, a one-credit support course for this and your other classes.
ENGL144 consists of work done in Book Club and a weekly meeting with a writing fellow
attached to this course. Attendance at these weekly activities is mandatory for passing
ENGL144 and failure to do so will adversely affect your success in ENGL101. I will receive weekly
attendance and progress reports on these activities. Thus:

The attendance policy described above applies to the writing conferences you will schedule with your Writing
Fellow: missing a writing conference counts as missing a class.

The attendance policy applies to the book club meetings scheduled directly after this class: missing book club
counts as missing a class.
Book Club Books for Fall 2019

Boyden, Joseph. Three Day Road. Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 25, 2006)

ISBN-13: 978-0143037071 Paperback

Best friends Xavier and Elijah are both expert sharpshooters and, using the field craft they learned
hunting in the forests of Hudson Bay, quickly become accomplished snipers. Elijah is outgoing and
boastful, while Xavier is quiet and reserved, but both are deadly efficient soldiers. A parallel story line
tells of Niska, Xavier's aunt, a Cree Indian prophet and healer, as she tells of the sad decline of Cree
culture and waits for her nephew to come home. As the war drags on, one of the men's addiction to
drugs and killing causes him to take extreme risks; when he finally commits murder to hide the ugly
truth, his friend sees only one solution to save his own soul.

Mbue, Imbolo. Behold the Dreamers. Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint Edition (June 26,

ISBN-13: 978-0525509714 Paperback

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a
better life for his family. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a
chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers
Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can
at last gain a foothold in America. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling
secrets. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are
desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are
dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

Danticat, Edwidge. The Farming of Bones. Soho Press, 2013.

ISBN-13: 978-1616953492 Paperback

Amabelle Désir, a young Haitian woman living in the Dominican Republic, has built herself a life as
the servant and companion of the wife of a wealthy colonel. She and Sebastian, a cane worker, are
deeply in love and plan to marry. But Amabelle's world collapses when a wave of genocidal violence,
driven by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, leads to the slaughter of Haitian workers. Amabelle and
Sebastian are separated, and she desperately flees the tide of violence for a Haiti she barely

Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Anchor; Reprint Edition (January 30, 2016)

ISBN-13: 978-0345804327 Paperback

Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans,
she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has
recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the
opportunity and escapes with him. In Whitehead's conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere
metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels. Cora
embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet
familiar iterations of her own world at each stop. As Whitehead re-creates the terrors of the
antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation.

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