Book Discussions at Living Lightly, by Melinda Messineo

Read any good books — with a group — lately?

Often during summer we feel we can take the time to attend a book club meeting or savor that perfect beach read. As a professor of sociology at Ball State University, I regularly have the opportunity to read transformative books, but it is my experience as chairwoman of the Ball State Freshman Common Reader Committee that has really endeared me to the shared-read experience.

The idea behind the common reader is to have a group of readers engage in a discussion that extends, critiques and applies the main ideas of the text. It is an effective way to clarify understanding about a topic, share thoughts and be challenged to look at an issue from another’s point of view in a supportive environment.

Over the past four years, I have participated in a reading group made up of campus and community members who gather weekly to read current books on sustainability, which means future generations will have access to the resources current generations enjoy. I have learned much from this experience and have made close friends as we have grappled with the ideas related to addressing the issue of climate change. This has been a valuable experience for me, and I am pleased that the Living Lightly Fair is bringing this common-read model to the community.

The Living Lightly Fair will take place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, on the grounds of Minnetrista and will feature three book discussion sessions. The books focus on increased sustainability either through radical economic change, the power of innovative design, or the dispelling of the myths of consumerism.

I will discuss This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein at 2 p.m. This book is a fascinating exploration of the role that our economic system plays in the perpetuation of climate change. It is honest, radical and hopeful in its approach to the topic.  Described by many as one of the most important books of this decade, I am looking forward to engaging in a lively conversation about her thesis that significant change must happen.

If you are interested in the role design plays in the future of sustainability, you might enjoy reading The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability — Designing for Abundance by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. In this follow up to Cradle to Cradle, the authors describe how design and production choices cannot only save the environment but also improve it. Donna Browne, the grant writer for the Center for Energy Research, Education and Service at Ball State, will lead this discussion group at 9 a.m.

The third book, An Other Kingdom by Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight, provides a powerful and inspirational reframing of how we might think about consuming. The authors challenge readers to think of a world where poverty, violence and environmental degradation are not inevitable. Wayne Meyer, a retired librarian from Ball State, will lead a discussion group about this visionary work at 1 p.m.

Are any of these books of interest?  Be sure to add them to your summer reading list and join the conversation this September. Even if you find you are not able to read the book, plan to attend the informative discussion. If area residents engage in this group reading experience, then we are hopeful that it will become a standard feature of the Living Lightly Fair. I hope you will consider joining us for informative, challenging and inspiring experiences.

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This article, which appeared in the Muncie Star Press on July 29, was written by Melinda Messineo, chairperson of the Sociology Department at Ball State University. Book information is also available on our Speakers page.

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