Book clubs and reading groups are a great way for people who love books to meet and discuss what they’ve read. Depending on the group’s interests, anything is fair game, be it literary classics, modern fiction, or political mystery thrillers like my novel, Impeachment Day. Sharing and discussing new ideas and insights can turn reading into a social activity, and it deepens our understanding of what we’ve read. And the experience is even better when the author of a selected book is available to participate.
I would welcome the opportunity to join your group for an evening of lively discussion about my book and about what it’s like to write and publish nowadays. When I started writing Impeachment Day I intended it as a political thriller, but as I wrote, it became something more — a reflection on why we have governments, why we believe (or don’t believe) in God, the evolution of cooperative social institutions, and other deep and puzzling philosophical conundra that have bedeviled humans for thousands of years.
I’m ready to dig into these philosophical meandering as well as a discussion of writing and publishing as an “indie” (self-published) author. Here are a few questions that we might consider as a group:
1. Are humans a naturally cooperative species, or isolated individuals who should strive separately for heroic achievements? This isn’t a question of Karl Marx vs. Ayn Rand, but of biology and history vs. Ayn Rand. That said, if anyone wants to seriously debate her version of the nature of man, I’d welcome the opportunity.
2. How do national economies really relate to household budgets or even the economics of corporate America and beyond? We often hear the national debt compared with family debt — “if times are tight, tighten your belt.” We also often hear how what the country needs is a corporate leader (or maybe a brain surgeon) instead of a politician as President. Is there any merit to such arguments?
3. Is presidential democracy better or worse than parliamentary democracy? Some have argued that the presidential form is more likely to slide into dictatorship, and that the U.S. is something of a rare exception to this rule.
4. What can the U.S. do in the Middle East to combat Muslim extremists? What can we learn from the history of military occupations? From past religious wars? Remember that places like Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics were part of the Russian Empire long before the Communists took over after World War I, yet despite more than two centuries of occupation and supposed assimilation they wanted independence and their own identity. Remember too how long it took for the Protestant vs. Catholic wars to burn out in Europe, and how they still persist in places like Northern Ireland.
5. Could a third party candidate (witness the ongoing Trump controversy) really win the Presidency? It hasn’t happened since Abraham Lincoln, when the country was deeply divided over slavery. The current “received wisdom” is that it could never happen again. On the other hand, we are once again acrimoniously divided, and there doesn’t seem to be any easy reconciliation in sight.
6. Was Ronald Reagan right? Is government some kind of evil unnatural creation that actually prevents society from functioning at full capacity? Or is government as natural a part of the way humans organize as churches, corporations (which, by the way, are a creature of laws and government), universities, hospitals, armies (again, creatures of government) and countless other cooperative mechanisms?
7. Do we still have real life heroes like Walleye Stromdahl?
8. In my book, Stromdahl, Sally Macalester, and Samir Al-Mahdi represent three contrasting views on faith and religion. Stromdahl is a religious believer, Macalester a non-religious believer, and Al-Mahdi a non-believer in God who still believes in religion. There’s no out and out anti-religious atheist in the book, but that’s another alternative. Which of the four is right? And how would a rational anti-religious atheist or a non-believer like Al-Mahdi square his or her views with the importance of religion in history and the need for faith to maintain it?
9. The military leaders in Impeachment Day all adhere to the Constitution, and there’s not a whiff of coup talk. Perhaps our biggest innovation as a country is secure civilian control of the military. Does the lack of a draft, and a separate and professionalized military class threaten that sacrosanct principle?
10. Do we need a 16 team college football playoff for the National Championship? Could Minnesota ever win it all?
11. The bicycle has been described as God’s greatest invention; a device that maximizes human potential without the use of any energy source other than a human. Plus it brings great health benefits. Does this view have any merit?
I hope these questions (both legitimate and slightly tongue-in-cheek) stimulate interest in both my book and having me come talk with your group about it. Depending on location and date, I am available for both in-person gatherings and online discussion forums. I welcome your thoughts, questions and suggestions. Please contact me to learn more or schedule a reading event at Bert@BertBlackWriter.com.