American Library in Paris Book Groups

Engage in stimulating conversation about books and exchange perspectives about characters and plot in an informal and friendly environment. Our Book Groups highlight many interesting books, varying from recent biographies, poetry, historical novels and well-known classics, to recent prize-winning novels or more obscure titles that members might not have discovered for themselves.

Book Groups begin twice a year (in September/October and again in January/February) and meet once a month at the Library. There is no additional fee for the book groups, but you must be a member of the American Library in Paris to participate. Space is limited. To sign up for a group, please send an email to programs@americanlibraryinparis.org.

FAQs on Book Groups

Book groups are organized at the Library’s initiative and led by experienced Library volunteers. Book group leaders — and participants — have broad discretion on how they unfold.

Yes. If you are not yet a Library member but would like to participate in one of our book groups, please join the Library before the first session of your selected group or be prepared (and leave enough time) to join or renew at the first session (check/cash/credit card, photo ID and proof of residence required).

Book groups on different topics/themes are offered two times a year (in September/October and January/February) and meet once a month. Book group meetings take place in the Library unless otherwise advertised.

Please come to the first session prepared to discuss the chosen book. Arriving a few minutes early will allow everyone to become acquainted. If you will not be present, please inform your book group leader, as others may be on a waiting list.

The Library is happy to provide some beverages for book groups, and participants may also bring other refreshments or snacks. Everyone is responsible for clean-up in Library spaces, including the kitchen.

Please send an email to programs@americanlibraryinparis.org, with the name of the book group you would like to join as well as your library membership number.

Book Groups - an incomplete list

Please subscribe to e-Libris, the Library’s biweekly electronic newsletter for updates on book groups. Contact programs@americanlibraryinparis.org for details.

2019 Book Groups

Strangers in a Strange Land  (GROUP IS NOW FULL)

Led by: Mary Harries Magnusson 

Descroption: Why do people take challenging journeys into the unknown? Deliberate flight from the unbearable? Pursuit of a dream? Or perhaps they have been swept, against their will, onto life-changing paths. Whatever the scenario, there is always a story to tell. Our group focuses on novels where protagonists are geographically and/or spiritually far from home, on what has prompted the journey and on how the new land shapes their lives.
Dates and Books: We meet in the Library for an hour and a half at 14h00 one Monday per month. Our next books (selected by Doodle vote):
18 February – A Perfect Mother by Katri Skala
18 March – The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
15 April – Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks
20 May – The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
17 June – Milkman by Anna Burns
16 September: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
21 October: Latecomers by Anita Brookner
18 November: The World of Yesterday by Stephan Zweig
16 December: The Ice Age by Margaret Drabble
20 January: Love is Blind by William Boyd

Celebrating works by the Library’s Evenings with an Author speakers
Led by: Catherine Olien
Description: This brand new Book Group, led by your Programs Coordinator at the American Library, will provide the opportunity for an in-depth, participatory analysis and discussion of works by our EWA guests in advance of their appearance at the Library. Covering a wide range of topics and genres, we hope to foster a community of readers who will also attend EWA evenings and come prepared with questions for our speakers.
Dates and books: All meetings will be at the Library at 14h00 on Sundays

  • 20 Jan – Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China (OR the UK edition of the same book, Once Upon a Time in the East) by Xiaolu Guo (speaking at the Library on 29 Jan)
  • 3 Feb – Losing my Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture by Thomas Chatterton Williams (speaking at the Library on 12 Feb)
  • 10 March – Paris by the Book: a Novel by Liam Callanan (speaking at the Library on 18 March)
  • 7 April – Friend of My Youth by Amit Chaudhuri (speaking at the Library on 30 April)
  • 26 May – Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo (speaking at the Library on 28 May)
  • 16 June – The UnAmericans: Stories by Molly Antopol (American Library Visiting Fellow, speaking at the Library on 19 June and giving a writing workshop on 22 June)

Analyzing Michiko Kakutani’s recent book “The Death of Truth”
Led by: Ronald Gerard Smith
Description: In light of the fact that the notion of truth – essential to civilization and culture e.g. in society, being able to problem-solve; in business, to fairly transact; in nature, to understand; in art, to determine worth, like libraries, etc. – is under attack from many quarters (and some people are doubtful of the idea to begin with), we will consider Michiko Kakutani’s recent polemic “The Death of Truth” over 3 Thursdays. Kakutani is the former chief book critic for “The New York Times.” University students around the library, particularly those sensitive to the deeply philosophical time in which we live, are especially encouraged to participate.
DatesAll meetings will be at 18h00 on Thursdays

  • 21 Feb – The first Thursday will be devoted to a critical appreciation of the book in a time of Trump and internet/social media manipulation e.g. the impact of lies, fake news, disrespect for the other, etc. Helpful, here, is to put this part of the discussion in the context of a general skepticism of absolutes (following Nietzsche, the “death of God”) and to emphasize the point that the contemporary appreciation for perspectivism in the west does not mean that everything is relative.
  • 21 March – The second Thursday will focus on a more serious critique of the book, especially where it oversimplifies postmodernism and selectively uses and applies, without depth, Arendt and the Frankfurt School – especially as they pertain to an American context. Reaganism, which began the fraying of the social fabric, is barely acknowledged. Interesting to note and discuss, here, what she says, as a former book critic, about David Foster Wallace.
  • 11 April – The third Thursday will be a discussion of where to go from here – trying to overcome our contemporary nihilism/cynicism with some idea of a direction – perhaps with a new sense of truth that affirms the value of perpectivism and a sense of common cause and communion (environmentalism and science?) through means that are artistic and consistent with ends that are valued (following Gandhi and Rorty here).

Revolution in human genetics and biology: An exploration of what we have discovered and what it means for the future of humanity (GROUP IS NOW FULL)
Led by: Maurice Lanman and Laurie Calvet
Description:  This is a continuation of our fall program, exploring this area of burgeoning scientific discovery that is far from settled science. The program and proposed dates for 2019 are described below. Although the books describe the roots and results of the science involved, they are written for a non-technical audoence and we expect all of them to be very “good reads.” However they do include material that many may not be familiar with, so we are allowing extra time to get through them.
Dates and books: All meetings will be at the Library at 17h00 on Tuesdays

  • 15 Jan – The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance by Nessa Carey
  • 26 Feb – Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich
  • 9 April – Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky
  • 7 May – Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome by Venki Ramakrishnan
  •  (WEDNESDAY) 19 June – The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen

This is America: Views of America today
Led by: Ed Turner
Description: Examining America today through diverse books, including a memoir, a novel, and a critique of America through an international lens. Books include Enduring Conviction by Lorraine K. Bannai, Plot Against America by Philip Roth, and Behold America by Sarah Churchwell
Dates and books: All meetings will be at the Library at 17h00 on Thursdays

  • 31 Jan – Behold America by Sarah Churchwell
  • 28 Feb – Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • 21 March – TBD

Finding time for Proust (GROUP IS NOW FULL)
Led by: Morgan Thomas
Description:There is no better way to tackle Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, than in the company of fellow enthusiasts reading with all deliberate speed and probing its multiple layers and meanings together.  As we begin Volume II (In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower) there is room for new members to join in.  Whether you have already read the first volume or plan to turn to it later, this could be a good place to start.  Reading in French or English.  Discussions in English. 
Dates and books: All meetings will be at the Library at 17h00 on Tuesdays

  • 18 Dec
  • 22 Jan
  • 19 Feb
  • 2 April
  • 30 April

Contemporary French fiction (GROUP IS NOW FULL)
Led by: Marjorie Lallemand
Description: Together our group chooses books from the new French novels which come out in September each year. We also invite some of the authors when possible, and we regularly organize theatre outings to see new French plays.
Dates and books: All meetings will be at the Library at 14h00 on Sundays

  • 13 Jan – Reviens by Samuel Benchetrit
  • 17 Feb – Frère d’âme by David Diop
  • 17 March – Federica Ber by Mark Greene
  • 14 April Leurs Enfants Après Eux by Nicholas Mathieu
  • 12 May Le Sillon by Valérie Manteau
  • 16 June Là ou les Chiens Aboient par la Queue by Estelle-Sarah Bulle

American Presidents
Led by: Philip Hone Auerbach and Theresa Foster
Description: When great story tellers address greet destinies, great biographies emerge. David McCullough, Jon Meacham and Doris Kearn Goodwin are among the absolute best biographers of the time. In this Book Group, we will debate the amazing antagonism and friendship of two giant founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, followed by two unexpected destinies, Harry Truman, the modest salesman from Missouri who fathered Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Marshall plan and NATO, and Lyndon B. Johnson, the bad boy from Texas, whose inheritance encompasses the civil rights on the bright side and the Vietnam war on the dark side.
Dates and books: All meetings will be at the Library at 17h00 on Thursday

  • 28 Feb – John Adams by David Mc Cullough
  • 14 March – Thomas Jefferson: The Art Of Power by Jon Meacham
  • 2 May –  Harry S. Truman by David McCullough
  • 23 May – Lyndon B. Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Words about Wine (Group will resume in Fall 2019)
Led by: Joshua Adler
Description: Join Paris Wine Company founder Joshua Adler for a look at the the history and culture of French wine. In addition to covering the basics of snobby wine jargon, we will discover enthralling stories of wine forgery over the past 300 years through the present day, find out what happens when a graphic novelist decides to spend a year making natural wine in the Loire Valley, and learn about the secret history of wine in Paris and Burgundy during the Second World War. Group members are encouraged to bring a bottle of wine to share with the group inspired by their reading.
Dates and books: All meetings will be at the Library at 19h30 on Thursdays

  • Group will resume in Fall 2019