The World Affairs Council Book Group schedule was disrupted this quarter due to the devastating October wildfires that affected this entire area. The Group was able to meet and discuss Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich, a book that gave us intimate portraits and memories of individuals. The author questioned them about their lives since the end of the Cold War, the differences they had experienced in everyday life, and their feelings about the changes.

Surprisingly to many of us was the affection these individuals expressed for their pasts and the disillusionment with the present. The promises of freedom and the good life turned out to be an illusion for many. The “feral capitalism” that ensued has shattered dreams and, as referenced in the title, led to the shops popping up in Russia to sell secondhand Western goods, the only goods that most people could afford. They rue the newly rich who spend carelessly and spurn the old values of education and equality. The picture of despair that many of them feel about their present lives left us unsettled about the future of this important area.

The Book Group did something unprecedented for the group--choosing books for the rest of this year and into early next year, but we will remain open to changes as new books appear and interests change. A list of the selected book titles appears on the World Affairs website, If you are interested in joining us and see a book you particularly want to discuss, please consider calling us for the date and place of the next meeting. We encourage anyone who loves books to join us as we continue to explore this endlessly fascinating world. Discussing a book with a group of others who have also just read it will add new dimensions to your own understanding.

— Pat Mai





WACSC President Robert W. Kirk has lectured in the South Pacific since 1986. His Ph.D. in history is from UC Davis.  His three books on oceanic history and culture are available on and Barnes & Noble online. 


In late 2012 Paradise Past: The Transformation of the South Pacific, 1520-1920, was published by McFarland Publications. Once the South Seas islands had been found by Europeans, dramatic change was inevitable. Disease, missionaries, firearms, literacy, colonialism, new foods, medical assistance, and then nationalism transformed Pacific cultures immeasurably. 


In 2011 Bob published History of the South Pacific Since 1513: A Chronoicle of Polynesia,Melanesia, Australia,  New  Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Robinson Crusoe Island. This introduction to a complex topic includes over 1300 significant events since Balboa saw the South Seas.


Pitcairn Island: The Bounty Mutineers and Their Descendents is the most comprehensive history of the dramatic creation of the mutineers' community after deposing Captain Bligh, and what followed to the early 2000s (McFarland, 2008). Bob says he will be delighted to autograph his books for WACSC members.







World Affairs Book Club


Jan. The True Flag by Stephen Kinser

Feb. The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google   by Scott Galloway

Mar. It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

Apr. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

May  A Nation of Deadbeats by Scott Reynolds Nelson



Jan. This Brave New World: India, China and the United States by Anja Manuel


Feb. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer


Mar. A World in Disarray: America Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order by Richard Haass


Apr. Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World by Robert Kaplan


May Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe


Jun. I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and the Grander View of Life   by Ed Yong


Sep. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant


Oct. Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich


Nov. How Emotions Get Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett



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