Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Explore your world: Animal protection

Challenge your group to go beyond conventional reading. With the internet unlocking connections among people, more strength has come to humanitarian and rights movements. In coming weeks, I'll be listing books that revolve around, or argue for, animal welfare, human rights, economic and racial equality. Many contain brilliant writing by thoughtful, philosophical writers; some are explorations of the beauty and interlocking worlds we inhabit. Your group might want to choose one or two to explore a new area of discussion.
First off are books about animal behavior and rights, with the recognition that animals are not simple possessions or objects in our lives, but are in many cases sentient beings with a right to humane treatment.
This notion has grown in recent years. Controversial theorist Peter Singer wrote about it in "Animal Liberation," in 1975. Today's internet, however, has led to widespread pet adoption services, cruelty alerts and social movements surrounding animals. Many of us have read novels and non-fiction about animals, but the movement for animal rights is growing, and should provide intellectual and emotional fodder for book groups.
To begin to explore animal rights and emotions in a light fashion, several popular books consider respect, even awe, toward fellow creatures: T.C. Boyle's "When the Killing's Done," is a fictional account of experiments wreaking havoc; "Merle's Door," by Ted Kerasote, is a highly readable memoir about interpreting canine feelings and needs; Sara Gruen's "Ape House," in which we meet several bonobos, chimpanzees who know sign language. There are more; members will probably be able to suggest helpful books to get started.
Getting into more serious viewpoints is important, however. Jonathan Safron Foer ("Everything is Illuminated;" "Extremely Loud and Exceptionally Close") has written an explanation of how humans justify carnivorous eating in "Eating Animals."
Melanie Joy wrote "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, The Belief System That Enables Us to Eat Some Animals and Not Others." Long title, big topic. It explores how humans blind themselves to needless suffering among animals we eat.  
A well-respected animal rights activist, Tom Regan, has written several books: "The Case for Animal Rights," "Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights" and "Defending Animal Rights" among them.
A recent documentary may also increase your group's understanding of the issue. Steve Wise, of the Nonhuman Rights Project ( is the source of the film, "Unlocking the Cage." Wise argues that animals deserve to be recognized as legal entities with certain fundamental rights. That may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but it's an idea with increasing support. (Wise's TED Talk in 2015 dealt with chimpanzee behaviors—and argues for guaranteed animal rights.)
"Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy" is Matthew Scully's shocking look at the hypocrisy, cruelty and thoughtless ways we deal with animals, ranging from big-game hunts with penned-in animals to modern factory farms, where animals live their lives until they reach the supermarket.
Leading animal rights activist Gene Baur has written "Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food." In it, he Top of Form
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i examines the real cost of the meat on our plates—for both humans and animals alike. You might be surprised, even shocked, at the illusions we preserve about the food we eat.
 Book groups:
The Lancaster Thayer Memorial Library's evening adult group has slated "Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong" by Raymond Bonner (non-fiction) for 6:30 p.m., July 26.
Gale Free Library contemporary book group in Holden has planned discussion of "One America: America, 1927" by Bill Bryson for its Aug. 2 meeting.
At Boylston Public Library, book club members will discuss "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates at 1:30 p.m., Aug. 3.
Audio Book Club in Worcester,, has slated "Half a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Aug. 2. Listeners may call in to Speaking Volumes at 508-752-0557 to join the discussion, 8 to 9 p.m.
Banister Book Group at the Merrick Public Library (Banister Memorial Hall), Brookfield, meets at 7 p.m., July 26 to discuss "Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea" by Morgan Callan Rogers, about a girl coming of age in coastal Maine during the 1960s.
NOW Women's Issues Book Group has slated Suzanne Strempek Shea's memoir, "Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and other Page-turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore" for July 11. After the author takes a job in a local bookstore, she describes her relationship with books and the customers who seek them, and marvels at the strange situation of being a published author ringing up her own works at the counter. Shea lives in western Massachusetts.
At Gardner's Heywood Public Library, the next selection is "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood. Meeting is at 4:30 p.m., July 27.
Reading, Sharing and Laughing meets at the food-tacular Chaibo in Fitchburg for its meetings. Next up, "Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff at 7 p.m., July 28. Sign up at Meetup to participate in this book group.
Worcester Public Library's Self-Help Spirituality Book Club meets the second Wednesday of each month, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. This book club is for people seeking direction on the road of life. July 13, "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz.
Ann Connery Frantz, a cofounder of Seven Bridge Writers Collaborative, welcomes your group's suggestions for classic reads, plus news of your book club, at Please send in book selection announcements as early as possible.