Here’s the plan

Substack, in addition to being a top-notch distributor of email newsletters, also has fun discussion thread features. This book club will work like so:

  1. Readers vote between four titles to select the book.

  2. I’ll lay out the schedule, which will basically be about a month per book.

  3. Every Saturday, a discussion thread for a specific chunk of the book will go out.

  4. Maybe I see if I can land an interview with the author for some submitted questions.

  5. Repeat!

We’ll do this for six months or so as a trial, see how it goes, and adjust from there. The focus will initially be on generally recent non-fiction works for the trial period. The main way I’m choosing the books is “interesting, somewhat subject matter specific” rather than generalist.

Heavily community-driven discussion, but someone with a hand on the till. If you don’t like a book selected, all you have to do is delete four emails over the course of the month and hang tight. Passive, unless you want to be active.

Here are the books we’re deciding between for the first round.

You’ll be sent the link to vote when you subscribe!

The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

by Ian Urbina, 2019

The world's oceans are too large to police, meaning that they're still full of danger and intrigue and teeming groups of people trying to make a living one way or another. This one doubles as a bit of an adventure story as well as an expose on one of the last lawless places in the world.

"Traffickers and smugglers, pirates and mercenaries, wreck thieves and repo men, vigilante conservationists and elusive poachers, seabound abortion providers, clandestine oil-dumpers, shackled slaves and cast-adrift stowaways -- drawing on five years of perilous and intrepid reporting, often hundreds of miles from shore, Ian Urbina introduces us to the inhabitants of this hidden world. "

The Library Book 

by Susan Orlean, 2018

This book covers both a devastating 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library and investigates whether it may have been intentionally set, while also going into the broader history of libraries and how they became such essential institutions.

"Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country."

The Meritocracy Trap

by Daniel Markovits

This is a pretty exiting one that I’ve seen a few excerpts published online about meritocracy and how the best intentions have led to a rough system for all parties, getting into bigger ideas about common and praised trends in parenting and education in the U.S. perpetuate inequality and make people unhappier.

“Today, meritocracy has become exactly what it was conceived to resist: a mechanism for the concentration and dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations. Upward mobility has become a fantasy, and the embattled middle classes are now more likely to sink into the working poor than to rise into the professional elite. At the same time, meritocracy now ensnares even those who manage to claw their way to the top, requiring rich adults to work with crushing intensity, exploiting their expensive educations in order to extract a return.”

Protecting Pollinators: How to Save the Creatures that Feed Our World 

by Jodi Helmer, 2019

This book goes into the science behind how important pollinators are and why they're broadly in decline. Even better, this book goes into the solutions that people attempting to protect pollinators and restore populations so that they'll continue to exist and we'll continue to eat any food.

"They will also be reminded of the magic of pollinators—not only the iconic monarch and dainty hummingbird, but the drab hawk moth and homely bats that are just as essential. Without pollinators, the world would be a duller, blander place."

Don’t hesitate to write in suggestions to bookclub@numlock.news, and if you haven’t yet be sure to check out Numlock News.