Skepticism

Skepchick Book Club and New Skep-Chick

Hi everyone! My name is Mary and those of you from Boston may know who I am because I've been running the Boston Skeptics' Book Club for more than two years. We meet up once a month to have an informal discussion about our book and eat some snacks (I usually bring the beer and cheese), and fun is had by all.

I'm on here to announce the first edition of the rebooted monthly Skepchick Book Club. Here is generally how this is going to work:

My focus for our local group has always been to read books about science or investigative journalism (and less about Skeptic 101 topics) so that we may advance our own knowledge and become better, more informed people. When I pick a book, I try not to choose the same topic as the previous two books because I know it's hard enough to read a book a month if you're bored. I really want to hear any suggestions you may have for books (and I think a contact area will be set up just for that [ED: yep, just choose "Book Club Suggestion" when using the contact form!). Most of the books we read are nonfiction, but I do pick the occasional fiction (e.g. World War Z, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bible!), especially around Halloween.

Also very important: I try to pick books that are less than 300 pages. I have a job and I go to night grad school, plus I usually read a second book in between to cleanse my brain, so I feel that page limit is reasonable to finish in a month with everything else going on. So I'll pick a book (or sometimes I have a poll), and after a month I'll post an open thread to discuss the book over the next few days. You don't have to read the book to participate because since these are scientific books, you can still contribute to the conversation. Sometimes we may even get the author in to answer questions and enhance the discussion.

To compensate for the lack of snacks, I'll be posting either a book-themed recipe or cocktail. In fact, we have some very good bakers at our local meeting–at the most recent one, someone made a mango-butter cheesecake that was even better than it sounds. Also, we have a tradition at our local club of having at least one Star Trek tie-in with the book, and I expect to continue this tradition, even if I have to beam up one myself.

In the future, if there is a demand for it we may have a live book chat, and please send in your suggestions or comments for how you think the Skepchick Book Club can be improved. We can't have a club without readers, after all.

We are still going to be meeting up in person in Boston, so if you're in the area look us up on Facebook or at our website. You can also browse through the site and see the books we've done in the past. We always accept newcomers, and if you haven't read the book you can at least enjoy a beer and a skeptical chat.

Now to the important part, next month's book! We are reading The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children by Katherine Stewart. From the Amazon.com description:

In 2009, the Good News Club came to the public elementary school where journalist Katherine Stewart sent her children. The Club, which is sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, bills itself as an after-school program of “Bible study.” But Stewart soon discovered that the Club’s real mission is to convert children to fundamentalist Christianity and encourage them to proselytize to their “unchurched” peers, all the while promoting the natural but false impression among the children that its activities are endorsed by the school.

Astonished to discover that the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed this—and other forms of religious activity in public schools—legal, Stewart set off on an investigative journey to dozens of cities and towns across the nation to document the impact. In this book she demonstrates that there is more religion in America’s public schools today than there has been for the past 100 years. The movement driving this agenda is stealthy. It is aggressive. It has our children in its sights. And its ultimate aim is to destroy the system of public education as we know it.

We are having our Boston meeting on Saturday, May 19th, and I'd like to have the open thread in the week following that. So I have a few questions for you, readers: When is the best day to have the open thread? Are weekends better than weekdays or does it not even matter? Let me know in the comments what you think!

Mary

Mary

Mary Brock is a scientist who works on drugs you've hopefully never heard of. She enjoys cooking to Blue Grass music, messing with her cats, and hosting the Boston Skeptics' Book Club. She was born in the South but loves living in New England (despite the lack of chocolate chip pizza). Mary does not use Twitter and don't even try to follow her, because she is always looking over her shoulder.

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23 Comments

  1. April 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm —

    Awesome! Looking forward to this :)

  2. April 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm —

    w00t! Welcome, Mary! I can't wait to get in on the discussions. As for what day of week is best, it might be a good weekend activity. Skepchick is otherwise fairly quiet on the weekends, which in my mind sort of suits a good book discussion.

    • April 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm —

      Yeah I was thinking that Sunday afternoon would be a good time, because the BSBC meets on Saturday afternoon.

  3. April 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm —

    Excellent! Welcome, Mary!

  4. April 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm —

    Ridiculously amazing timing.  I just found out this morning that my local AU group is trying to get Katherine Stewart to come do a talk within the next few months.  Can't wait to start.  I'm up for any time, though for full discussion probably to start the thread on a week day evening or a weekend afternoon would be good.

    • April 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm —

      Nicole, we got lucky because Katherine emailed the Boston Skeptics this weekend right before I was about to pick a book, so there you have it. She's going to be in Boston this month too, so we'll get to see her speak!

  5. April 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm —

    Welcome!  Sounds terrifying…

  6. April 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm —

    This sounds awesome! I probably won't be able to participate every month, but I look forward to expanding my reading list and learning new things.
    And welcome, Mary!

  7. April 9, 2012 at 4:29 pm —

    Welcome aboard Mary! I've been looking forward to this book club for a while now, so I'm glad it will finally be kicking off. Even if I can't read along every month, I'll be happy to add to the giant pile of books that will one day topple and kill me.

    • April 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm —

      Even if you don't read the book, you can still join the conversation! Or just browse the thread if you're on the fence about reading it in the future. Truthfully I wouldn't read as many books as I do without the social pressure of a club, haha.

  8. April 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm —

    Good stuff! I don’t know how often I’d be able to participate, but I’m up for some rainy weekend participation because when the sun is out I'm outside! I always enjoy getting book recommendations from people who care about what they read; also if recommendations are made through the non public “contact us” would it be possible for part of the book club posts to include listing interesting looking books other people have suggested even if they are not chosen?  

    • April 9, 2012 at 8:00 pm —

      Wow, all bold. Sorry, not sure how that happened.

    • April 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm —

      I have a pretty large public list on Amazon (my quick and dirty list keeper), so I'll probably just link to that at the end of the book club post. I hear about most books either through suggestion or NPR interviews. (In fact, I heard the author of If Walls Could Talk: An intimate history of the home on NPR today and I'm going to check that out soon.)

  9. April 10, 2012 at 2:22 am —

    The Boston Skeptics Book Club page for this book is now up.  Lots of details about our non-virtual meeting on May 19th.  Anyone in the Boston area is invited to attend.

  10. April 10, 2012 at 2:47 am —

    I also want to mention what a terrific job Mary does organizing and leading the Book Club every month.  I have especially come to appreciate it since last month I "volunteered" to fill in for her and discovered how much work it is!  We're all in for a treat, and that's not even counting the snacks and beer.
    Also, I have a Type-1 phaser (set to stun) that I use to zap the 1st person making a Star Trek reference.  It is a great honor.  Anyone have any suggestions about how to phase someone online?
     
     

  11. April 10, 2012 at 6:22 am —

    Mary has indeed done an excellent job running our Boston Skeptics book club, and I look forward to the online version.
    (Oddly, I don't recall any Star Trek references during our last meeting… the first time that's ever happened, I think…)

    • April 10, 2012 at 6:33 am —

      I know! I remembered that too. But I was off my game, although I have one now. How about that Klingon food where it's essentially a plate of live worms? Can't think of the name, but that's pretty disgusting.

      • April 11, 2012 at 7:04 am —

        It is called "Gagh".
        I really miss the book club but a guy has got to work.
        Hopefully I can arrange a trip to Boaston for a book club one of these days.
         
         
         

      • April 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm —

        Zap!!!
         

  12. April 13, 2012 at 1:18 pm —

    Great idea! Always looking for new book suggestions and some discussion.

  13. April 19, 2012 at 1:54 am —

    This sounds like an amazing idea. All my friends that are in book clubs are all reading things I have no interest in, such as 'Eat, love, prey' and the like. Finally a book club that I am keen to be involved in. Can't wait!

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