Book Club Discussions

Arts and Crafts collectors love to read, and we love our books and our home libraries. While reading is a solitary endeavor, we also enjoy sharing with others our thoughts, opinions, and observations. For several years Pat Bartinique, English professor and author, has lead our popular in-person book discussions at the National Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn. This coming February, Pat will again be using her experience to lead our discussions, but this time through Zoom. We hope you will take the opportunity to read any of this year’s selections in advance of February, so that you can log in and join the other registered participants in the lively discussions Pat will be leading during the month.

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Live Discussion: Thursday, February 4 at 4:00pm EST

Published in 1905, Edith Wharton’s first best-selling novel, “House of Mirth,” laid bare the moral corruption which plagued America’s upper class during the rising popularity of the Arts and Crafts movement and its call for social and economic reform. Viewing the world through the eyes of the beautiful socialite Lily Bart, the author set out to criticize “a society so relentlessly materialistic and self-serving that it casually destroys what is most beautiful and blameless within it.” Born into New York’s high society, 29-year-old Lily Bart is pressured to find a suitable husband who can maintain her privileged position place in society. Orphaned at age twenty without an inheritance, Lily’s rebellious streak, as well as her penchant for gambling and indiscrete behavior, lands her in several embarrassing and life-threatening situations. The novel provides Arts and Crafts readers with insight into the remnants of the Victorian Gilded Age which fueled the passion within the Arts and Crafts movement’s reformers.

E-book and Kindle version of “House of Mirth” available here through Project Gutenberg.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Live Discussion: Thursday, February 11 at 4:00pm EST

Best-selling author Erik Larson burst onto the contemporary literary scene in 2003 with his spellbinding narrative set amidst the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Honing the genre of historical non-fiction to a razor-sharp edge, Larson weaves the story of a serial killer working in the shadows of the rising World’s Fair buildings through the political intrigue plaguing the efforts of fair designers Danial Burnham and John Root. Burdened by bad weather, labor strikes, meddling politicians, his partner’s death, and a manslaughter charge, Burnham is determined to open the World’s Fair, complete with the first Ferris Wheel, to cement and celebrate Chicago’s reputation as a modern city at the eve of the emerging Arts and Crafts era. A warning: once you read just one of Erik Larson’s books, you will want to read them all!

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

Live Discussion: Thursday, February 18 at 4:00pm EST

Published in 1920, the highly-regarded “Main Street” contributed to the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Sinclair Lewis ten years later. Set in the fictitious small town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, “Main Street” remains one of the most famous – and relevant – satires of small-town life and morals. Educated in Chicago, where she is exposed to many extremist views of the Arts and Crafts era reformers, the young heroine Carol Milford reluctantly agrees to move with her new husband to Gopher Prairie. The idealistic young woman sets out to reform the conservative townspeople, who respond by shunning her and her efforts, all of which leads to problems within her own household and marriage. Anyone who has grown up or spent time in a small town, or who is curious what happens when a reformer finds herself in one, will find “Main Street” an insightful read with much to be shared, analyzed, and discussed.

E-book and Kindle version of “Main Street” available here through Project Gutenberg.