Join SPARK Museum’s Book Club to discuss some of the most fascinating inquiries into the world and its mysteries as we experience them. We believe that at the heart of science is inspiration and curiosity and reading is one of the most enriching and enlightening ways to engage with new ideas, reacquaint ourselves with the past, and inspire us to move into the future as change-makers.
The SPARK Book Club will meet quarterly, and explore a variety of science related themes, including stories about the people, the discoveries, the struggles, and the life-changing innovations that brought us to today’s modern world. Book Club discussions take place quarterly giving you plenty of time to really dive into the reading list this year. The meetings will be an opportunity for community members to join together in a virtual space to discuss the quarter’s book. You are welcome to join one or all the discussions and participation is free but registration for discussions is required.
2022 Reading List
By Erik Larson
In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men: Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication. Their lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.
Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners; scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed; and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men”, nearly commits the perfect crime.
With his superb narrative skills, Erik Larson guides these parallel narratives toward a relentlessly suspenseful meeting on the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate.
Discussion: Wednesday, October 19th at 6:00 pm
By Hope Jahren
Lab Girl is a book about work, about love, and about the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about the things she’s discovered in her lab as well as how she got there; about her childhood – hours of unfettered play in her father’s laboratory; about how she found a sanctuary in science and learned to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands”; about a brilliant and wounded man named Bill, who became her loyal colleague and best friend; about their adventurous, sometimes rogue research trips, which take them from the Midwest all across the United States and over the Atlantic, from the ever-light skies of the North Pole to tropical Hawaii; and about her constant striving to do and be the best she could, never allowing personal or professional obstacles to cloud her dedication to her work.
Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her insights on nature enliven every minute of this book. Lab Girl allows us to see with clear eyes the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal and the power within ourselves to face – with bravery and conviction – life’s ultimate challenge: discovering who we are.
Discussion: Wednesday, July 20th at 6:00 pm
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
Colonel Chris Hadfield has spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4000 hours in space. During this time he has broken into a space station with a Swiss army knife, disposed of a live snake while piloting a plane, and been temporarily blinded while clinging to the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft. The secret to Col. Hadfield’s success – and survival – is an unconventional philosophy he learned at NASA: prepare for the worst and enjoy every moment of it.
In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Col. Hadfield takes listeners deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch; the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks; and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement – and happiness. His own extraordinary education in space has taught him some counterintuitive lessons: don’t visualize success, do care what others think, and always sweat the small stuff.
You might never be able to build a robot, pilot a spacecraft, make a music video or perform basic surgery in zero gravity like Col. Hadfield. But his vivid and refreshing insights will teach you how to think like an astronaut, and will change, completely, the way you view life on Earth – especially your own.
Discussion: Wednesday, April 20th at 6:00 pm
Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light
By Jane Brox
Brilliant is a haunting evocation of human lives, offers a sweeping view of a surprisingly revealing aspect of human history – from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to the LEDs embedded in fabrics of the future. Jane Brox plumbs the class implications of light – who had it, who didn’t – through the many centuries when crude lamps and tallow candles constricted waking hours. She convincingly portrays the hell-bent pursuit of whale oil as the first time the human desire for light thrust us toward an environmental tipping point. Only decades later, gas street lights opened up the evening hours to leisure, which changed the ways we live and sleep and the world’s ecosystems.
Virtual Discussion: Wednesday, January 26th at 6:30 pm
The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another
Ainissa Ramirez examines eight inventions – clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, light bulbs, hard disks, scientific labware, and silicon chips – and reveals how they shaped the human experience. Ramirez tells the stories of the woman who sold time, the inventor who inspired Edison, and the hotheaded undertaker whose invention pointed the way to the computer. She describes, among other things, how our pursuit of precision in timepieces changed how we sleep; how the railroad helped commercialize Christmas; and how a young chemist exposed the use of Polaroid’s cameras to create passbooks to track black citizens in apartheid South Africa.
The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars
By Jo Marchant
Jo Marchant’s spellbinding parade of the ways different cultures celebrated the majesty and mysteries of the night sky is a journey to the most awe inspiring view you can ever see – looking up on a clear dark night. That experience and the thoughts it has engendered have radically shaped human civilization across millennia. The cosmos is the source of our greatest creativity in art, in science, in life.
The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness
By Katie Booth
The Invention of Miracles is an astonishingly revisionist biography of an American icon, revealing the extraordinary true genesis of the telephone and its connection to another, far more troubling legacy of Bell’s: his efforts to stamp out American Sign Language. Weaving together a dazzling tale of innovation with a moving love story, the book offers a heartbreaking look at how heroes can become villains and an enthralling account of the deaf community’s fight to reclaim a once-forbidden language.
Where to Buy the Books.
We always recommend buying books from independent book sellers. The links above will take you to Village Books in Bellingham, Washington. If you purchase through them you also support SPARK! You could also purchase through Amazon Smile and support a non-profit of your choice.
Who Can Join?
This book club is open to anyone interested in joining! Our reading selection is curated for adults but teens are welcome to join! This club is probably not the best for children. More questions? Contact us!
Stay Up to date!
Sign up for our Newsletter to stay up to date on upcoming discussion dates. Also, make sure to register for the discussions you are interested in attending to get the reminder e-mail and some amazing book club exclusive content!