Reading List, Fall 2022 to Spring 2023, Metropolitan Book Club

The Club reads non-fiction and is open to all. Come September, we will meet in the church at 12:30 p.m. and will try to organize a Zoom broadcast as well. All books are available at the Toronto Public Library. Below is the schedule. To join the mailing list, drop us a line at

September 25, 2022.  The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
2010. 84 holds/51 copies 

This won a Pulitzer Prize for its documentation of The Great Migration--the flow of Blacks from the southern states to the northern and western cities in the USA (1915-1970). It is beautifully written and soundly researched. It's the sort of book I can't wait to get back to in the evenings, and which I carry around to read on the TTC. This exodus changed the face of America. 

October 23.  Pale rider: the Spanish flu of 1918 and how it changed the world by Laura Spinney
2017. 9 holds/13 copies.

The author traces the pandemic that killed up to 100 million people, from India to Brazil, from Persia to Spain, and from South Africa to Ukraine. She demonstrates that the Spanish flu was a very significant event in creating the modern world.  This book is a wonderful combination of facts and human stories.

November 27.  The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power & the Necessity of Military Force by Eliot A. Cohen
2016. 4 copies; 2 audiobooks; 2 e-copies

Cohen is a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advance International Studies and a former counselor of the US Department of State. He considers everything from “Why the United States?” to China, Jihadis, Dangerous States (Russia, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea), and “ungoverned spaces and the Commons.” He lays out the realities as he saw them.  

January 22.  Bush Runner: the Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie
40 copies

The book is a biography of multilingual French fur trader Pierre Radisson. Radisson lived through fantastic adventures: capture and adoption by the Mohawks in 1652, escape to early New York City, trading partner with the Indigenous people of the Great Lakes, defecting from the French and witnessing the Great Plague and Great Fire of London, defecting back to the French, co-founding the Hudson’s Bay Company, running with pirates.... A fascinating and remarkable life story that is finally being told.

February 26.  A libertarian walks into a bear: the utopian plot to liberate an American town (and some bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling
5 copies, 5 e-copies

I found this book extremely funny.  It's the story of a small town in America, and its contentious history with any kind of government (and also bears).  It's a very irreverential and satirical look at how and why libertarians have failed to gain a real foothold in the US and how successfully governing is a lot harder than the average citizen thinks it is, especially when people try to live in groups, but no one is ultimately left accountable for the behaviour of that group.

March 26.  My father’s paradise: a son’s search for his Jewish past in Kurdish Iraq by Ariel Sabar
1 hold, 12 copies

A charming book about something you know nothing about. In a remote corner of the world, forgotten for nearly three thousand years, lived an enclave of Kurdish Jews so isolated that they still spoke Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Mostly illiterate, they were self-made mystics and gifted storytellers and humble peddlers who dwelt in harmony with their Muslim and Christian neighbors in the mountains of northern Iraq. After several immigrations, to Israel and then the US, the father of the title ends up at Stanford as a prof trying to preserve Aramaic, which at this point is only a spoken language. His son, a California surfer, wants nothing to do with his odd father, until he goes looking for his history and reconciliation. The fact that there’s still a hold on the book after being at the library 15 years speaks to its power.

April 23.  Irony and outrage: the polarized landscape of rage, fear and laughter in the United States by Dannagal Young
7 copies, 1 e-copy

Young examines the difference between how the right and the left prefer to have their news delivered: the yelling heads of Sean Hannity and Alex Jones versus the satirical humour of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Specifically, she looks at how the two types of media aren't actually as far from each other as they appear and serve the same function as each other in the left/right worldview. I really enjoyed it and found that she did a good job of trying to keep her analysis fair and truthfully confronting her own biases.  It's a good look into how the "other side" thinks and how it isn't that different from "your side."

May 28.  Things I have Withheld by Kei Miller

This book is just wonderful - it is part memoir and a commentary about things that people rarely discuss... Kei Miller looks at assumptions we make, and how different people perceive us vs how we perceive ourselves. He talks of family secrets, his experiences as an author, and his interactions with people from various backgrounds. 

June 25.  Nothing’s true and everything is possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
27 holds, 10 copies, audiobook and ebook. 

A terrific read, alternately hilarious, appalling, and deeply insightful. The author, born to Russian emigres in London, goes to Moscow for film school and works for ten years in Russian television. He passes easily as Russian, though being from London is important for his prestige. His insights about the country are molded by the sorts of shows he works on (he’s a documentarian), and he is really inside the great propaganda machine. The bars, the demolitions, the money, the daily recreation of a new and different Russia, this book is an exciting read and left me very troubled about the future of the Russian people.

September 24.  The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
27 copies

From TPL site: The Antidote is a wry, witty travelogue that turns decades of self-help advice on its head. In it, Guardian journalist Oliver Burkeman chronicles a series of journeys by people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether philosophers, experimental psychologists, New Age dreamers or hard-headed business consultants, they have in common a hunch about human psychology. They believe that in our personal lives and in the world at large, our constant fixation on eliminating or avoiding the negative--uncertainty, unhappiness, failure--is what causes us to feel so anxious, insecure, and unhappy.