On Wednesday, July 26, 2017 we will meet to discuss A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

From Amazon;


Drawing on the diaries of one woman in eighteenth-century Maine, this intimate history illuminates the medical practices, household economies, religious rivalries, and sexual mores of the New England frontier.

Between 1785 and 1812 a midwife and healer named Martha Ballard kept a diary that recorded her arduous work (in 27 years she attended 816 births) as well as her domestic life in Hallowell, Maine. On the basis of that diary, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich gives us an intimate and densely imagined portrait, not only of the industrious and reticent Martha Ballard but of her society. At once lively and impeccably scholarly, A Midwife’s Tale is a triumph of history on a human scale.”



On Wednesday, June 21, 2017 we will meet to discuss The Diary of a Nobody by the brothers George and Weedon Grossmith.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

From Wiki:

The novelist Evelyn Waugh had been familiar with the Diary since his childhood. It was a great favourite of his parents—Arthur Waugh used to read passages aloud to his family,  and Evelyn’s biographer Selena Hastings has drawn attention to the distinctly Pooterish elements in the Waugh household.  Evelyn Waugh was initially contemptuous of the book, but grew to admire it, to the extent of writing in his 1930 essay “One Way to Immortality” that it was “the funniest book in the world”. He added: “Nobody wants to read other people’s reflections on life and religion and politics, but the routine of their day, properly recorded, is always interesting, and will become more so as conditions change with the years”.  Morton posits that several of the leading characters in Waugh’s early novels, though socially far removed from the Pooters, share the bafflement of Charles and Carrie with the problems of a changing world.

From the first edition printed in 1892 ~~

Introduction by Mr. Pooter.

Why should I not publish my diary?  I have often seen
reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail
to see—because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’—why my
diary should not be interesting.  My only regret is that I did not
commence it when I was a youth.

Charles Pooter.

The Laurels,
Brickfield Terrace,

The Diary of a Nobody is available on Project Gutenberg  and on WikiSource

On Wednesday, May 24, 2017 we will meet to discuss Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

From the back cover of Profiles in Courage~~

“This is a book about courage and patriotism.  It tells the dramatic stories of a number of American politicians of various political and regional allegiances whose one overriding loyalty was to the United States and to the right as God gave them to see it.  They range from born aristocrats to self-made men.  Some are well-known, some almost forgotten.  But all of them, in the face of dreadful consequences, exhibited a special kind of greatness.  These stories about them remind us sharply that there is, in addition to a courage with which men die, a courage by which men must live.”

May 29, 2017 commemorates President Kennedy’s 100th birthday.



On Wednesday, April 26, 2017 we will meet to discuss this year’s choice for the Great Books Intercollegiate Student Symposium, On the Road by Jack Kerouac.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

This year, on Thursday, April 27th, students of Oakton’s Great Books Program will participate in the 12th Annual Great Books Intercollegiate Student Symposium at Harper College in Palatine.  Oakton students will have the opportunity to share their analysis of On the Road and discuss their ideas with peers from Harold Washington, Wright, and Harper Colleges.

Best of luck to Professor Braud and to all the students involved.

Prof. Braud has provided the following to promote a robust discussion:

Spontaneous Prose and Tone

What did you notice about the text’s style (syntax, diction, etc.) and tone?
Were these stylistic things easy or difficult to read and why?
Does the tone seem to match the events of the plot?
Look at FORMALISM as a theory and see how Kerouac’s text uses style and how the deviations from standard sentence structure can be interpreted.
“The run-on sentence is the product of Kerouac’s spontaneous prose and is used to illustrate things Sal feels nostalgic about.”
The research question is “What effect does the use of run-on sentences have on the narrative


March 2017 – Animal Farm

Please join us on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 to discuss Animal Farm by George Orwell.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

from the inside cover flap by Harcourt Brace & Company ~

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

George Orwell’s classic satire of the Russian Revolution has become an intimate part of contemporary culture.  It is an account of the transformation of Manor Farm into Animal Farm, of the brave struggle on the part of the animals to create a wholly democratic society built on the credo that All Animals Are Created Equal.  Of course, as with its many counterparts in modern society, this brave struggle results in a new totalitarian regime and a new maxim: But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.

Orwell’s succinct, frightening fable is unsparingly descriptive of the fates of those who have suffered monstrous regimes and terrible leaders.  A masterfully written allegorical novel, Animal Farm remains a warning for our times.





Please join us on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 to discuss Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

From HaperCollins Publishers:

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, part memoir, part social analysis, is a fascinating examination of culture, class, and the American dream of working class white Americans in Appalachia. Hillbilly Elegy explores how and when “hillbillies” lost faith in the American dream and in any hope of upward mobility through the prism of Vance and his mother and grandparents.

J.D. Vance is a former Marine and a graduate of Yale Law School.





January 2017 – The Iliad

Please join us on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 to discuss The Iliad by Homer*.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 1603.

From Barnes & Noble ~~

Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters presents us with his universally acclaimed modern verse translation of the world’s greatest war story. Rage-Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses, hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls? Thus begins the stirring story of the Trojan War and the rage of Achilles that has gripped listeners and readers for 2,700 years. This timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves inexorably to its wrenching, tragic conclusion. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox observes in his superb Introduction that although the violence of the Iliad is grim and relentless, it co-exists with both images of civilized life and a poignant yearning for peace. Combining the skills of a poet and scholar, Robert Fagles brings the energy of contemporary language to this enduring heroic epic. He maintains the drive and metric music of Homer’s poetry, and evokes the impact and nuance of the Iliad’s mesmerizing repeated phrases in what Peter Levi calls “an astonishing performance.

*We will use the Robert Fagles translation.