As part of my involvement in Nonfiction November this month, I am encouraging one of my book clubs to consider a nonfiction book as our next reading selection. The members of this particular book club greatly enjoy planning some kind of activity, guest speaker, or outing to go along with the book that we read. We have had guest speakers such as a local author attend our meetings, for example. When we read The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin, we attended a panel of speakers about the Lindbergh trial, and a few of us even toured the Lindbergh estate (you can see a blog post I wrote about that here).
So I decided to do a little thinking about what nonfiction books my club might read that would lend themselves easily to some kind of outing. We are fortunate enough to live within driving distance of both Philadelphia and New York City; the combination of those great cities gives us a lot of options, if we are willing to take an all-day trip on the weekend. I thought I would share some of my ideas with you, and ask if you had any other suggestions. Although you may not live anywhere near me, you might be able to plan a similar kind of trip in your area to go along with these same books.
Here, then, are a couple ideas for nonfiction books and activities/outings to go with them:
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. This book tells the story of the 1936 American rowing team that competed in the Berlin Olympics, the games controlled by the Nazis. OUTING: Rowing! There are several local dragonboat teams and other rowing groups in our area, including all female teams, who row on the river near our home. Perhaps we will contact one of those teams and give rowing a try! Of course, this outing would be better suited for spring or summer. As an alternative, we could take a walk around beautiful Boathouse Row in Philadelphia, where there are historic clubhouses belonging to rowing teams that have been participating in the sport for over a century.
Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman. This book considers the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, the 23-year-old son of the Governor of NY and one of THE Rockefellers, back in 1961 in Papua New Guinea. The case was never solved, and the author seeks to determine if there is truth to the rumors that native tribesmen found him and... well, ate him. I am reading it now, and it's fascinating! OUTING: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC has all the native art that Michael Rockefeller found before he died. I've been to the Met a number of times, but I don't think I've ever seen the exhibit of Asmat art. Now that I'm reading the book, of course, I am very anxious to see it!
Lives in Ruins: Archeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson. This new book, just released this week to very good reviews, is all about archeologists ("the real life avatars of Indiana Jones") and what they do. OUTING: We could take a field trip to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. The Penn Museum, as it is commonly called, has one of the finest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world, and collections of archaeological finds from all over the globe. As an alternative, we could invite a real-life archeologist to talk to us, and hear his or her perspective on the book and whether or not it accurately reflects their field.
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. This book offers the tale of a reclusive and eccentric heiress, the daughter of one of the Gilded Age industrialists, and the mysterious way she spent all of her fortune before she died. One of her many homes--the "empty mansions" which had sat unused for decades--made the news this summer when it was sold for $14 million in Connecticut (far under the value of what it is probably worth). OUTING: Perhaps we could take a field trip to 5th Avenue, where Huguette Clark once owned a lavish home, for lunch and shopping, just to pretend we are heiresses. Closer to home, Duke Farms, the estate of Doris Duke (another insanely wealthy heiress from the early 20th Century) is now open to the public as a park and gardens.
Dr. Mutter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. This newly published book is a biography of Dr. Thomas Mutter from Philadelphia, who helped to revolutionize surgery in America, back when the doctors used to perform it without anesthesia and without even washing their hands. OUTING: A visit to the Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities in Philadelphia, which houses the real Dr Mutter's specimens and collections. I have been there before, and it's very interesting, although not, I warn, for the squeamish!
I don't know if my book club will select any of these titles; it is still under discussion. But it certainly is fun to make "field trip planning" a part of book selection. And I can tell you that I WILL be making a pilgrimage to the Rockefeller wing of the Met soon!Does your book club ever plan special activities or outings to go along with the books you read? If so, what kinds of activities and outings have you planned? What kind would you love to participate in?