Archive for October 30th, 2023

Another Look book club back in the news: still an oasis for book lovers everywhere!

Monday, October 30th, 2023
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Two people talking and laughing on stage. Next Avenue
Werner Herzog, on right, with Robert Harrison  |  Credit: L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

Stanford’s “Another Look” club has gotten a lot of praise in the years since it was founded in 2012 by novelist Tobias Wolff (and now under the directorship of Robert Pogue Harrison) – among other surprises, we were featured in The Guardian. We’ve bragged about Another Look’s triumphs here and here and here.

Someone else has taken up the banner. Journalist Sharon McDonnell wrote an article in Next Avenue about books clubs generally, but with special attention to Stanford’s Another Look. Next Avenue,  a digital journalism publication produced by Twin Cities PBS. The PBS site has served over 80 million people, and millions more through its platforms and partnerships.

Her article begins: 

The Continuing Studies Program of Stanford University was stunned when 961 people attended its book club’s free talk about A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf‘s 1929 classic, in April 2023, in person or via Zoom.

But then, it’s not just any book club. German filmmaker Werner Herzog has been a speaker. Philip Roth agreed to an interview. The club always features panelists who are scholars or writers, who discuss a book before opening to audience questions. Ostensibly for the Stanford community, the club is in reality for anyone who wants to listen, since its talks are posted on the Another Look Book Club website and on YouTube.

Woolf on Zoom

This club shines a spotlight on books that are forgotten or merit more attention, some plucked from obscurity, others read decades ago, that are short (200 pages or so) and in print. Almost entirely fiction, book choices span almost 400 years and three continents, from The Queen’s Gambit, which became a Netflix series, to The Princesse de Clèves, a 1678 book most people are unfamiliar with. (Unless you’re a public sector worker in France, whose entrance exams include questions on it. After Nicolas Sarkozy, then President of France, denounced the book in 2009, sales doubled in a year.)

Ask the Dust, a 1939 novel set in Depression-era Los Angeles, The Lover, a novel about Vietnam in French Colonial days and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde show the club’s range.

Why so much fiction?

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