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Monday, April 30, 2012


Great Books Council of San Francisco Presents the Third Gold Country Nonfiction Mini-Retrest

John Adams

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Auburn Great Books group invites you to discuss David McCullough’s John Adams.  In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the most moving love stories in American history.
       This is history on a grand scale---a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas.  Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.  The Adams biography earned McCullough his second Pulitzer Prize.
       We ‘ll discuss Parts I and II, through page 385 of this epic biography, Including the revolution, independence, Adams’ mission to France, and to the Court of St. James.
       We start at 9:30 a.m. at the Mercy Center, 535 Sacramento Street, Auburn, CA 95603.  Lunch will be served on location.  In the afternoon we will view the first sections of the award-winning film, starring Paul Giamatti as John Adams, and Laura Linney as Abigail Adams, and we conclude by 4:30 p.m.
       Buy the David McCullough book published by Simon & Schuster, 2001.  There are often used copies available through Friends of the Library and
       Contact Donna Reynolds, Registrar, before May 12, at (916) 797-8561.  Cost is $35 per person including lunch.  Mail your check, name, and contact information to Donna at 1133 Ravine View Drive, Roseville, CA 95661.

Update, New Discussion Groups

We are on a mission to increase the number of local Great Books discussion groups in Northern California and we are meeting with some success.  Jan Vargo, our excellent data keeper and census taker, found forty-three GB discussion groups this year, about a ten percent increase over last year’s thirty-nine.  Here is some info on some of our newer groups:

Great Books Discussion Group at Richmond Branch Library in San Francisco has been meeting for over two years and we continue to have excellent attendance with twelve to twenty participants at each meeting.  We just finished two discussions of the U. S. Constitution which were very enlightening with all that is going on at the Supreme Court and with a presidential election this year.  Quite a few long time Great Bookies in San Francisco participate in this group.

Great Books Discussion Group at Main Library in San Francisco started off slowly over a year ago with only three people showing up to discuss readings from the Introduction to Great Books Series.  We are now in the second book of that series and regularly have ten to twelve participants.  Our discussion groups are now sponsored by the San Francisco Library so they publicize our meeting and we have one or two new participants each month.  They don’t all continue, but we have developed a solid core of regulars.

Great Books Discussion Group at Noe Valley Branch Library in San Francisco has been meeting for one year and we have a regular group of six to eight participants starting, next month, the second book of the Introduction to Great Books Series.  This group also has new people attending each month from the publicity provided by the library and from our exposure on We use a well lit, cozy room downstairs in the library.  Parking is sometimes a problem, but most of our members live in the neighborhood.

Great Books Discussion Group of El Cerrito meets at the home, with a marvelous view of the bay looking west, of one of our members.  We are in the third book of the Introduction to Great Books Series and have four to eight participants on a regular basis.  We met at a local library for awhile, but the room was a bit too small.  We get new people attending from exposure on and, more often, by word of mouth.

For many years there was a Great Books Discussion Group of Santa Rosa with six to ten people meeting at the Borders bookstore twice a month.  That group is no more.  When Borders closed we had to scramble for another place to meet and the group split into two groups in Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa and attracted many new participants as a result. 

Great Books Discussion Group of Rohnert Park meets at the Oak View apartments community room twice each month and we are about half way through Citizens of the World, Readings in Human Rights.  Many of the residents of the apartment complex have joined us and we have ten to twelve participants at each discussion.

Grat Books Discussion Group of Santa Rosa meets at Friends House, a Quaker retirement facility, with very good meeting rooms.  Due to the large number of new Great Books participants we started with the Introduction to Great Books Series four months ago and we have twelve to sixteen participants meeting twice monthly.  This group and GB Rohnert Park participated in the Big Read in Sonoma County this year reading and discussing Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya.

Great Books Poetry Discussion Group of Berkeley was started just two years ago.  See the article in the current issue of Reading Matters for more information.

Starting new discussion groups is the best way to increase discussions of Great Books and the Great Ideas contained therein.  The Great Books Council of San Francisco hosts events throughout the year to discuss Great Books, but those meetings are rare compared to regular, local discussions where we can get together with people we know to enlarge our understanding of the stimulating, humanizing ideas in what we read.  We at the Council have a simple program to offer for starting a Great Books discussion group and will assist anyone who wishes to do so.