Book Discussions

Each summer, our staff host a range of book discussions.  The books span a variety of topics, and the literature provides a great starting point for conversations that extend well beyond the text. Our 2021 books were as follows:

Author: Mary Oliver

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver had three instructions for living a life. 1) Pay attention 2) Be astonished 3) Tell about it. Staying true to her own directive, Oliver curated her best work into this anthology where she shares her revelation and astonishment with the natural world. When Oliver was growing up, she oftentimes went truant from school for long spells of time, finding a more relevant education in nature. Over Oliver’s 84 years of life, she remained devoted to this Romantic nature tradition, producing poetry featured in “Devotions” that asks challenging questions such as the infamous, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” while fielding responses like “the dream of my life is to lie down by a slow river and stare at the light in the trees – to learn something by being nothing.” Altogether, “Devotions” is Mary Oliver’s magnum opus, a poetry memoir filled with the invaluable lessons learned and beauty discovered in her observation of the natural world.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This raw and captivating novel follows the life of the fictional Evelyn Hugo, a glamorous actress who rose to fame during the 1960s. Near the end of Evelyn’s life, she decides to hire Monique Grant, a writer from New York, to tell her life’s story. Evelyn evolves throughout the book into a series of different roles: a passionate wife, a loving mother, a ruthless actress and so much more. Through these interviews, Grant discovers truths about Evelyn that even those closest to Evelyn are oblivious to. The two form a bond that will be tested as Monique uncovers deeper details of Evelyn’s life. This novel is a riveting story of love, fame, and the lengths one will go to hide the truth.

How to do Nothing
Author: Jenny Odell

Though the title suggests inaction, Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing asks its readers to do anything but. This collection of essays takes on the “attention economy,” an economy built around our ever growing technological outlets and commodifiable engagement with them. Growing up in Sunnyvale and now working as an adjunct professor of Art Practice at Stanford, Odell has witnessed first-hand the hyper-connectivity of the Bay Area. The book explores philosophical, literal, spiritual, and artistic understandings of work and leisure (and the balance between the two), asking readers to refocus their attention to the world around them. If you’ve felt particularly strained by Work From Home, then this might just be the book for you.

Women’s Breakfast 

* We Should all be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

* Now is A Good Time to Take Care of Ourselves [12min listen] an episode of the Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work

*We offer the above works as optional reading and listening for Women’s Breakfast, around which to center discussions of women’s resilience, the women-identifying experience around the world, and more. If you don’t have time, it’s cool too! We each have lots to share from our own experience and can tailor the conversation to the interest of the group!