Oakdale book club to explore American history

Participants sought for two-year journey of learning

History buffs in the east metro will have a unique opportunity to explore American history from pre-colonial times to the present as part of a new book club.

The Oakdale Library is forming an American history book club that will embark on a two-year quest to answer: "How did the United States develop into the country that we live today?"

Starting in December, the book club will meet at the library on the first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. to discuss books covering our nation's history from the 1400's to present day.

Although a few people have already signed up, librarian Barb Halligan says there are still spots available in the group. She said ideally the book club would have 10 to 12 people. The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 2.

A group of 12 formed the library's first ever American history book club two-and-half years ago. Halligan says they enjoyed the experience so much they vowed to continue when the scheduled 24-month period concluded last spring.

"The group thought it was very valuable and are so glad they did it. They decided they wanted to go even deeper," she says.

Roxie Aho of Oakdale says the knowledge he has gained over the past two years made the commitment worthwhile. He says the club has continued its study of American history, but is now doing so through literary works.

"The Library of Congress put out its list of the 88 most influential books," he explains. Since May we have been going through these. We were reading Poe last month and now we're reading Hawthorne."

At the club's October meeting members were discussing Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlett Letter."  Some had already begun reading Herman Melville's classic: "Moby Dick" in preparation for the next two discussions.

Associate library manager Martha Riel says group members take turns leading the discussion at the meetings, which usually last about two hours. Riel has been in the original American history book club since its founding in 2012. She says she has enjoyed chronologically building on her knowledge of history with the same group of people.

"Even though we were all well-read we still all learned a lot," she says. "You gain new perspectives on old knowledge."

Riel says you don't need to be an expert historian to join the new club. All one needs is a desire to learn, the time to read one book per month and a couple of hours to devote to discussing it. Her group is a healthy mix of ages and backgrounds. She's hopeful the new group will be as well.

Halligan says the library will ensure there are enough copies of each book available for each person in the club to check out. The first American history book club began its two-year journey by reading "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus." She says it's a good book to start off with, but noted group members would ultimately decide which books they would like to read. She says she would be happy to make recommendations.

For more information on the book club, or to join, contact Barb Halligan at Barbara.Halligan@co.washington.mn.us or 651-730-0504.

The Oakdale branch of the Washington County Library is located at 1010 Heron Ave. North.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.


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