Massey College Book Club

The Quadrangle Society Book Club was founded by Quadrangler Sandra Martin at the Society’s first meeting in 1998. Now called “Massey College Book Club”, meetings are held in the Upper Library, three times each term, usually following a Quadrangle dine in hall evening.

Programming for the Massey College book club is done by a committee of Quadrangle Society Members, Junior Fellows and Senior Fellows who work together to provide a list of books and presenters that represent the community as a whole.

Here’s the list for the 2018-2019 Book Club:

Monday, October 1st, 2018 “Seven Fallen Feathers” by Tanya Talaga

presented by Signa Daum Shanks 

Talaga, a veteran investigative reporter for the Toronto Star, has crafted an urgent and unshakable portrait of the horrors faced by indigenous teens going to school in Thunder Bay, Ontario, far from their homes and families. Since the early twentieth century, indigenous children living on Native reservations in northwestern Ontario have lacked access to a quality education. A child’s best shot at a bright future is to move away from home and attend school in one of the bigger nearby cities, like Thunder Bay. This often means fleeing the nest and living independently at only 13 or 14 years old. Aside from the premature launch, indigenous teenagers face a myriad of hardships while attending big-city high schools rampant racism, extreme underage alcohol and substance abuse, along with physical and sexual violence. Talaga chronicles seven untimely and largely unsolved deaths that have taken place among Native Thunder Bay students since the new millennium. Seven families lost children too soon, and seven families were denied justice by police, coroners, and school administrators. Talaga’s incisive research and breathtaking storytelling could bring this community one step closer to the healing it deserves.

Tanya Talaga will deliver the 2018 CBC Massey Lectures.


Monday, November 5th, 2018 – “Exit: West” by Mohsin Hamid

presented by Vinh Nguyen

From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, a love story that unfolds in a world being irrevocably transformed by migration. In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet–sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, thrust into premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors–doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As violence and the threat of violence escalate, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. Exit West is an epic compressed into a slender page-turner–both completely of our time and for all time, Mohsin Hamid’s most ambitious and electrifying novel yet.

Monday, December 3rd, 2018 – “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante

presented by Liz Renzetti

In a poor, midcentury Italian neighborhood, two girls, Elena and Lila, exhibit remarkable intelligence early in school, at a time when money is scarce and education a privilege, especially for girls. Only Elena is allowed to continue in school, and she devotes herself to her studies, while Lila redirects her own talent toward her family’s business. The girls use each other, sometimes as crutches, sometimes as inspiration, but as they approach adolescence, their friendship is challenged by their changing bodies and attitudes toward the world. Elena increasingly turns toward education as a means of escaping, while Lila looks to her burgeoning beauty as a means of altering the violence and bitterness that threaten their neighborhood. The first book in a prospective trilogy, My Brilliant Friend is a compelling and moving coming-of-age story set in an impoverished neighborhood struggling to come into its own in a rapidly shrinking world.

Monday, January 7th, 2019 – “Do Not Say We Have Nothing” by Madeleine Thien

presented by Lily Cho

In Thien’s luminescent third novel (following Dogs at the Perimeter, which won the Frankfurt Book Fair’s 2015 LiBeraturpreis), stories, music, and mathematics weave together to tell one family’s tale within the unfolding of recent Chinese history. Beginning in 1989 in Hong Kong and Vancouver, this narrative snakes both forward and backward, describing how a pair of sisters survived land reform, re-education at the hands of the Communists, the coming of the Red Guard, the Cultural Revolution, and the protests at Tiananmen square. The story is partially told by the central character, mathematics professor Marie Jiang (Jiang Li-ling), as she discovers her late father’s past as a pianist, which was left behind and concealed when he left China for Canada. Thien takes readers into the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where Marie’s father studied with composer Sparrow and violinist Zhuli in the midst of the cultural upheaval in the 1960s. Filled with intrigue, shifting loyalties, broken families, and unbroken resistance, this novel is beautifully poetic and as carefully constructed as the Bach sonatas that make frequent appearance in the text. Thien’s reach-though epic -does not extend beyond her capacity, resulting in a lovely fugue of a book that meditates on fascism, resistance, and personhood.

Monday, February 4th, 2019 – “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

presented by Dan Riskin

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations, and human rights; to trust money, books, and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables, and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical — and sometimes devastating — breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology, and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behavior from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power…and our future.

Monday, March 4th, 2019 – “Women and Power: a Manifesto” by Mary Beard

presented by Alison Keith

At long last, Mary Beard addresses in one brave book the misogynists and trolls who mercilessly attack and demean women the world over, including, very often, Mary herself. In Women & Power, she traces the origins of this misogyny to its ancient roots, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated strong women since time immemorial. As far back as Homer’s Odyssey, Beard shows, women have been prohibited from leadership roles in civic life, public speech being defined as inherently male. From Medusa to Philomela (whose tongue was cut out), from Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren (who was told to sit down), Beard draws illuminating parallels between our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship to power–and how powerful women provide a necessary example for all women who must resist being vacuumed into a male template. With personal reflections on her own online experiences with sexism, Beard asks: If women aren’t perceived to be within the structure of power, isn’t it power itself we need to redefine? And how many more centuries should we be expected to wait?