TRAVERSE CITY — An area slogan, “one book, one community,” could change to “two books, several communities” with the addition of a new regional reading project.
The Bob Russell Resilience Reading Project kicks off this winter with the first of several books recommended by the late local activist and environmentalist.
Russell died in August from cancer, but not before approaching the Michigan Land Use Institute about promoting books he considered key in helping people understand what they can do to make their communities as economically, environmentally and socially healthy and resilient as possible.
“This is a targeted list of 14 books that were carefully curated by Bob, that all tie to the theme of community resilience,” said Hans Voss, executive director of the Michigan Land Use Institute, one of 16 partners in the regional book club. “After he died, we came up with this idea of making it a reading project and exploring what happens when thousands of people read the same book at the same time.”
Area residents are encouraged to read one designated book a season, then talk about it at a community discussion. The inaugural book, “Cooked”
by Michael Pollan, will be discussed on Feb. 24 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the lower level of Horizon Books in downtown Traverse City.
Russell was co-director of the Neahtawanta Research and Education Center and a producer of “Investigating Community Resiliency,” an interview series on Traverse City’s UpNorthTV public access station. He defined resilience as a community’s ability to adapt to, rather than bounce back from, unpredictable change.
“We’re now past the point of repair and are going into a time of transition to lack of abundance and change of climate,” Russell said in a 2012 Record-Eagle interview. “We’ve had to shift to the work of resilience and how to adapt to the conditions humans have created.”
Voss said he hopes to reach out to as many participants as possible by making the reading project accessible and interesting and promoting it through channels like the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce and Cherry Republic, as well as environmental and other groups.
“We wanted to keep it simple and not make it feel like a burden, just promote a book and not make people come to weekly meetings or feel like they have to show up at a discussion and be intelligent about what they’ve read,” he said. “We’re hoping that bookstores and different networks will bring people from all walks of life into this conversation. We’d be thrilled if many people found the time to read with us.”
Russell’s wife, Sally Van Vleck, said her husband would have loved the idea.
“He was passionate about books,” she said. “He was an avid, avid reader and he was forever telling people to read books on his list.”
Already the reading project has drawn considerable interest, said MLUI communications manager James Russell.
“We created a Facebook page and we racked up 300 ‘likes’ in just a few days,” he said. “Bob was an important thinker for the community. A lot of people respected that.”
For more information, visit www.resilience-reads.org.
The books "Cooked," by Michael Pollan "Owning Our Future," by Marjorie Kelly "Local Dollars, Local Sense," by Michael Shuman "The Resilience Imperative," by Michael Lewis "For the Common Good," by Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb Jr. "The Energy Reader," by Laura Nader "Thinking, Fast and Slow," by Daniel Kahneman "The Surprising Design of Market Economies," by Alex Marshall "What's the Economy For, Anyway?" by John de Graaf and David K. Batker "The Future," by Al Gore "Full Planet, Empty Plates," by Lester R. Brown "Rebuilding the Food Shed," by Philip Ackerman-Leist "The World in 2050," by Laurence C. Smith "The Wealth of Nature," by John Michael Greer