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Monday, October 2, 2023

Life + Arts

Local group reads the greats

Finding a good book is hard, but finding book lovers doesn’t have to be.

Affiliated with the Great Books Foundation, the Houston Great Books Council is comprised of 22 Houston-area book groups that meet monthly to discuss different books.

The HGBC’s goal is to allow participants to discuss philosophy and literature and discover what makes writing great by revisiting sentimentally entrenched classics and dusting off the long dormant bookshelf filler that you’ve always meant to read.

College students are ideal participants for such clubs, but organizing a book club can be tedious and members can be unreliable.

The HGBC offers consistent companionship to prospective members who enjoy discussion about readings.

Some groups are oriented toward enfranchising specific regions of town and others are theme-focused.

For fans of science fiction and fantasy, the Speculative Fiction group meets at The Black Labrador on Montrose Boulevard on certain Saturdays.

Recently, the group has read and discussed Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, including The Golden Compass, Alan Moore’s recently cinematized graphic novel Watchmen and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

At the same location on Thursdays, the Classical Poetry group reads old, epic poetry. Sometimes members bring in their favorite short classical poems to read aloud and discuss.

They have recently read sonnets from Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney and John Donne, and will be reading George Gascoigne’s ‘Woodmanship’ and ‘Lullaby’ this month.

Some groups attend to subject matters in particular collegiate disciplines.

According to the HGBC’s Web site, the Political Philosophy group has read many of the foundational figures in political theory leading up to establishment of modern democracy: a bipartisan mingling of Aristotle, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Alexis de Tocqueville.

This year, the group focused on a study of distinctly American writings, commenting on the Constitution, attempting to provide themselves with a variety of perspectives.

The GBF publishes compilations and interpretations of historically important works of literature so that GBF groups can read them.

The Philosophy Cafe group is currently reading excerpts from the GBF’s ‘Reason’ series.
The Always on Sunday group is reading texts from the GBF’s ‘What’s the Matter?

Readings in Physics’ series, as well as the GBF’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins Sampler,’ discussions alternating between contemplations on the cold mysteries of hard science and meditations on the tendencies of human passion.

Several of the groups study more recent literature, including President Barack Obama’s autobiographical Dreams from my Father, a personal discussion of race-relations and modern American life in general, and Michael Pollan’s publication In Defense of Food.
In Pollan’s book, he argues against ‘nutritionism,’ the popularized practice of eating specific nutrients to improve health and vitality.

Students who love literature and would like to supplement their education and social life should check out the Houston Great Books calendar at

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