Virtual Alumni Book Clubs-Paideia III

Book Club #1 EDUCATED, and Book Club #2 CHINA MEN are in progress.

Luther College Alumni, Parents and Friends are invited to join one of our Virtual Alumni Book Clubs (aptly named Paideia III)! The clubs were formed to engage our constituents with faculty emeriti and with one another.

The clubs are free, (You will need to purchase your own book ahead of time at your local book store or online, and you will need a computer capable of joining a Zoom meeting). Each club has a limited enrollment of 30. First-come; first-served. You can register online here.

Book clubs will be moderated by volunteer faculty emeriti and Luther staff. There will be no lectures or expectations other than the group will meet at a specified time (for just one hour per week on Zoom) to discuss a book they have read together. A link to the Zoom meeting will be sent out each week. The book clubs will also have a Facebook group for members of the group to engage with one another and share thoughts about their books during the days the clubs do not meet.

Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop by Lee DrutmanBOOK #4   Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop  by Lee Drutman
"This is the best book on America’s polarized politics that I have read in years. It is built upon the best social science research and is written in a clear, accessible style. Lee Drutman gives us a clear-eyed historical context and analysis of America’s divisions and a genuine solution regarding electoral reforms. Drutman says this about his book. 'It’s a book about how our political system fell into this downward spiral - a doom loop of toxic politics. It’s a story that requires thinking big - about the nature of political conflict, about broad changes in American society over many decades, and, most of all, about the failures of our political institutions.'” -- Professor Emeritus of Political Science Paul Gardner.

Professor Gardner taught at Luther from 1985 to 2018. He taught three seminars on American presidential elections, in 2008, 2012 and 2016. As a Fulbright scholar to Romania spring 2020, he taught and lectured on American democracy, polarization and the American presidential election of 2020.

Moderator: Professor Emeritus of Political Science Paul Gardner

Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop will meet on Zoom on four Wednesdays at 5:00 p.m. tentatively beginning on July 1st (July 1, 8, 15 and 22) First session: I. Origins (Chapter 1 - 4); Second Session II. The Contemporary Crisis (Chapters 5 - 7); Session III The Solution (Chapters 8 - 10); Session IV The Future of American Democracy (Ch. 11)

Growing Up DecorahBOOK #3   Growing Up Decorah  by Peter Ylvisaker '84
Growing Up Decorah
 is not a National Book Award winner and will not make the New York Times best-seller list. Thanks, however, to word-of-mouth and the wonders of social media, this memoir by Luther College graduate Peter Ylvisaker ’84 is generating enough Oneota Valley buzz to warrant a conversation. Ylvisaker, son of Dr. Richard Ylvisaker ’50 and Joanne Ylvisaker moved to Decorah as a toddler in the mid-60s, and stumbled his way through childhood on Leif Erikson Drive and Meadow Court before traveling two small-town blocks to the Luther campus, where he applied himself just enough to earn an English degree. Growing Up Decorah is a coming-of-age story that is equal parts silly, sentimental and tragic. It is also the tale of a town – a magical place that continues to forgive the misdeeds of youth. The book is a very short read. The Zoom meeting will be a one-time opportunity to talk with the author and ask questions about the book and the collection of stories in it. Some of Peter's childhood friends may attend as well! (Note: Growing Up Decorah is published on demand, so can take a few weeks to arrive if ordered online, Dragonfly Books and Agora Arts in Decorah have copies available)

Moderator: Kirk Johnson '82 , Associate Director of Alumni Relations (who lives next door to the house on Leif Erikson Drive where Peter grew up!)

Growing Up Decorah will meet on Zoom to discuss the book with the author on two separate occasions, Choose one: Tentatively Tuesday, July ? at :? p.m., or Sunday, July ? at ?p.m.

A number of Luther College alumni own book stores in the Midwest, and we encourage you to purchase your books from your local book store or one of ours!

Dragonfly Books

Dragonfly Books in Decorah offers discounts for organized reading groups and book clubs. The store is owned by Kate (Nelson) Rattenborg '83.


  Cream and Amber

Cream and Amber, a bookstore in Hopkins, Minnesota, offers discounts to Luther alumni purchasing books for the Virtual Alumni Book Clubs. The store is owned by Luther alumnae Kacey Hruby Wyttenhove '11, and Katie Terhune '11.



"China Men" by Maxine Hong Kingston (In Progress) BOOK #2   China Men  by Maxine Hong Kingston
At one point Kingston conceived of China Men (the 1981 National Book Award winner for General Nonfiction) as a single volume with The Woman Warrior (1976). Both works are usually described as a memoirs, but both range far beyond her own life experiences as she refashions myths, histories, and tales spanning at least three generations of ancestors in China and in America. Its various fictional and non-fictional elements and chapters taken together tell a story that complements and expands her readers’ access to previously unvoiced or suppressed versions of the American story. In this moment forty years distant from its publication, when once again China and even Chinese Americans are frequently being represented as radically other, China Men offers a way to discover and reconsider their integral place in our American history and current events.

Professor Emeritus of English Peter Scholl
Professor Emerita of Classics (Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill.) M. Jane Borelli (Luther faculty member; 1971–82)
China Men will meet on Zoom on Five Tuesdays at 5:00 p.m. beginning on May 26 (May 26, June 2, 9, 16, and 23)


"Educated" by Tara Westover(In Progress) BOOK #1  Educated  by Tara Westover
was selected as one of the New York Times Best Books of the Year for 2018. It is the memoir of Tara Westover who first walked into a classroom at Brigham Young University. She was born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho, and had never been to a doctor. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to successfully take the ACT and be admitted to BYU. An older brother had gone to college and that became her dream. As her education continued she struggled with the tensions she felt between a fierce loyalty to her family and the loss that came from severing those ties. This is a coming-of-age story that addresses “what an education is and what it offers: The perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.”

From Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies Alan Lerstrom: "Many Luther alumni are first generation college graduates as am I. The first time I read the book I thought about what kind of work I might have done, and who I would be if I had not gone to college. As our society struggles with the best way to address the pandemic, I am struggling with the tension between my rights to do what I wish, and my responsibilities to the broader society."

Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies Alan Lerstrom
Professor Emerita of French Ruth Caldwell
Educated will meet on Zoom on Five Wednesdays at 5:00 p.m. beginning on May 20 (May 20, 27, June 3, 10, and 17) 

More book groups and new titles will be available later this summer.