We will be reading The White Album and After Henry over six weeks this summer.
We will be reading The White Album and After Henry over six weeks. Illustration by Kathryn Rathke

Editor's note: This was originally published last week, but we're re-upping it because the book club starts in two days, on August 1. There is still time to sign up. It's based on a class previously offered at a literary center for $380. We are offering it for as low as $99—or more, if you'd like to pay more to support The Stranger and projects like this.

For The Stranger's book club, we usually read fiction by authors who are dead, like Muriel Spark or James Baldwin. But this summer we're shaking things up by reading some nonfiction by a legendary author who's still alive (although just barely).

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Joan Didion's essays changed literature and journalism forever. By centering a woman's perspective in the major events of her day, and by combining the instincts of a reporter with the techniques of a novelist, Didion's work did things that hadn't been done before.

The Joan Didion book club will be a slightly longer experience than the previous two book clubs, which were four weeks long. This is six weeks long, and we will be reading Didion's essay collections The White Album (1979) and After Henry (1992). These are arguably her best books, but we'll talk about Didion's successes as well as her stumbles.

Although this is a book club for the socially distant, it's also a class: You get a new lecture each week (by me!) providing background details about the author's life, new ways of looking at the text, and critical analysis. There are also (entirely optional) opportunities to engage with everyone else in the club about what you've just read each week.

In terms of subject matter, we will be discussing Didion's brilliant, iconic, and sometimes frustrating takes on the late 1960s, feminism, the Black Panthers, brush fires, Nancy Reagan, presidential politics, the Central Park Five, and Patty Hearst.

Bonus for anyone who was in the Giovanni's Room book club: James Baldwin himself makes an appearance in one of these essays—at a dinner party in Hollywood.

Support The Stranger

The book club happens on Saturdays at 10 am PST, aka 1 pm EST, aka 7 pm in European capitals—so you could make it extra fun for yourself by doing it as a shared experience with a friend who lives very far away.

Because this is a two-weeks-longer experience than before, we have risen the price slightly, but there is still an accessible $99 option on the low end.

You can sign up here.