Social Justice Book Club

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year my reading goals are simple:

  • Read 52 books
  • Read 1 book each month about a social justice topic

Some of the best books I’ve read in the past couple of years (Tattoos on the Heart, Just Mercy, Hillbilly Elegy) are about complex issues our society faces that matter deeply – or should matter deeply – to each of us. It can be hard to face these topics, but it’s important to make the effort, and reading about them is a good first step.

In order to foster dialogue among my real-life-and-online literary friends, I’m hosting five social justice book discussions throughout 2017. Each Facebook event will be active for one week, and I’ll post questions throughout the week to facilitate the discussion.

Below are the details for the 2017 Social Justice Book Club online events. Hope you’ll join us!

Evicted: Poverty and Pro25852784fit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Matthew Desmond, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius,” has written an extensively researched book about landlord-tenant relationships, evictions, and extreme poverty in American cities.

Online Discussion: February 27-March 6, 2017




Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones22529381

Since I live in a state where heroin use is on the rise, America’s opiate epidemic has been on my mind. I’m eager to read journalist Sam Quinones’s account of how the problem has spread. Dreamland has made many “best of” book lists and was awarded the NBCC Award for General Nonfiction.

Online Discussion: April 24-May 1, 2017




An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz


The history of the Native Americans who originally inhabited the U.S. is something that we all know to be deeply troubling, but we tend to guiltily shove that darkness into the back of our minds. At least, that’s been my method of “dealing with it.” I hope that reading this book, which received both the 2015 American Book Award and the 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature – will provide us with more educated, less escapist viewpoints on this topic.

Online Discussion: July 10-17, 2017



The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Miche6792458lle Alexander

2016 reminded us time and again that – to our horror – racial injustice is not a thing of the past. Having worked with ex-offenders transitioning from incarcerated life back to the outside world, I am somewhat aware of the effects of imprisonment on individuals, but I want to understand more about the larger structure of the criminal justice system and the racial injustices that have been ingrained in the system. Another important book on this topic is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

Online Discussion: September 18-25, 2016


Tatt7090193oos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

This is the only book on this list that I’ve already read. Since one of my goals in life is to get everyone to read it, clearly I had to include it as part of the Social Justice Book Club. Plus, I need a good excuse to buy a hard copy. Gregory Boyle’s stories about ministering to gangs in Los Angeles are deeply moving and will challenge your misconceptions about people and how to love them. (Spoiler Alert: That’s the whole point of this book club.)

Online Discussion: November 13-20, 2017


““If there is a fundamental challenge within these stories, it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives.”

– Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart


*Links in this post are not affiliate links. They connect you to my local independent bookstore, Gibson’s.



The 5 Books I Finished in November and December

Linking up with Anne Bogel’s Quick Lit

After an unintentional hiatus from blogging (AKA an attack of laziness), I’m back to share the books I read at the end of 2016. Although I slowed down on my reading progress as the holidays rolled by, I did finish some great books toward the end of the year. Without further ado, here are the five books I read in November and December.


IT by Stephen King

My Thoughts: This book is a shining (pun intended) example of why Stephen King is THE king of horror. The creepy, crazy story of the haunted town of Derry, Maine and the gang of friends who confront the dreaded IT is not just terrifying; it’s so well-told that it’s almost believable.  King’s plot and character development are both phenomenal – as is his ability to make clowns petrifying. Unless you’re super squeamish, give this book a try; you will be sucked into the story – hopefully not literally.

Length: 1116 pages (Yup)

When I Read It: August 23, 2015-November 11, 2016 (I started and stopped a couple of times, but when I finally got going, I couldn’t put it down.)

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold at the library; read it the old-fashioned way.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

My Thoughts: This was a fascinating exploration of underdog triumphs and what contributes to these seemingly unlikely victories. I especially enjoyed the examples Gladwell used from the field of medicine – the story of Dr. Emil J. Freireich, who went against the grain to pioneer a treatment for childhood leukemia – and the field of education. I’m not sure I would have stuck with this book in print form, but I coasted along with the audio version.

Length: 7 hours

When I Read It: November 15-17, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Borrowed the audiobook through Overdrive and listened on my phone.

Memorable Quote: “But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.”

The Likeness by Tana French

My Thoughts: After reading and loving French’s first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, In the Woods, I was excited to read The Likeness, and book two did not disappoint.  French digs deeper into the character of Detective Cassie Maddox, who goes undercover to investigate the murder of a woman who looked exactly like her (hence, the book title). It’s a suspenseful read with interesting characters in an Irish setting. What more could you want?

Length: 466 pages

When I Read It: November 20-December 9, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold at the library; read it the old-fashioned way.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My Thoughts: When my favorite online book discussion group set up a readalong of Little Women for the Christmas season, I jumped at the chance to re-read it for the first time in almost 25 years. Although I know the story well from the movie starring Winona Ryder, I honestly remembered nothing from my first reading of the book, so it was such a treat to read it for (almost) the first time. I loved the experience of reading it as an adult and found myself resonating with the character of Marmee – the mother – even more than beloved Jo.

Length: 449 pages

When I Read It: December 3-24, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Downloaded a free Kindle copy; read it on the Kindle app on my phone.

Memorable Quote: “Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

My Thoughts: I can’t say this book endeared Rob Lowe to me (he just doesn’t seem down to earth to me, even though he claims to be … I suppose I could give him a chance in person), but I did really enjoy reading Lowe’s stories of getting started in show business and meeting many fascinating famous people along the way. Prior to reading this book, I had no idea that Lowe has known the Sheen family since he was a teenager, and that factoid shed a whole new light on his relationship with Martin Sheen in The West Wing. Also, this book is worth purchasing for the awesome photos in the center – classic pretty boy Rob Lowe galore. I’ve heard that the audio version read by the man himself is excellent.

Length: 320 pages

When I Read It: November 12 – December 31, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: This was a traveling book club pick that I read the old-fashioned way.


I closed out 2016 with a grand total of 52 books read – more than three times my total in 2015. I was aiming for both quality and consistent reading progress, and I found that balance in reading, on average, a book a week.

You can check out my Goodreads “Year in Books” here:  and friend or follow me on Goodreads for the latest updates on what I’m reading in 2016.