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Monday

May 13

7 PM

Mary Gray

Ghost Work

How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass

In the spirit of Nickel and Dimed, a necessary and revelatory expose of the invisible human workforce that powers the web--and that foreshadows the true future of work. 

Hidden beneath the surface of the web, lost in our wrong-headed debates about AI, a new menace is looming. Anthropologist Mary L. Gray and computer scientist Siddharth Suri team up to unveil how services delivered by companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Uber can only function smoothly thanks to the judgment and experience of a vast, invisible human labor force. These people doing "ghost work" make the internet seem smart. They perform high-tech piecework: flagging X-rated content, proofreading, designing engine parts, and much more. An estimated 8 percent of Americans have worked at least once in this "ghost economy," and that number is growing. They usually earn less than legal minimums for traditional work, they have no health benefits, and they can be fired at any time for any reason, or none. 

There are no labor laws to govern this kind of work, and these latter-day assembly lines draw in--and all too often overwork and underpay--a surprisingly diverse range of workers: harried young mothers, professionals forced into early retirement, recent grads who can't get a toehold on the traditional employment ladder, and minorities shut out of the jobs they want. Gray and Suri also show how ghost workers, employers, and society at large can ensure that this new kind of work creates opportunity--rather than misery--for those who do it.

MARY L. GRAY is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research and Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. She is also Associate Professor of the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering with affiliations in the Media School, Anthropology, and Gender Studies at Indiana University. Mary draws on anthropology, gender studies, and media theory to understand how technology access, material conditions, and everyday uses of media transform people's lives. 

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Thursday

May 16

7 PM

Christopher Castellani

Leading Men

"Blazing . . . casts a spell right from the start." --Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"An extraordinary book." --Lauren Groff, author of Florida

Illuminating one of the great love stories of the twentieth century - Tennessee Williams and his longtime partner Frank Merlo - Leading Men is a glittering novel of desire and ambition, set against the glamorous literary circles of 1950s Italy

In July of 1953, at a glittering party thrown by Truman Capote in Portofino, Italy, Tennessee Williams and his longtime lover Frank Merlo meet Anja Blomgren, a mysteriously taciturn young Swedish beauty and aspiring actress. Their encounter will go on to alter all of their lives.

Ten years later, Frank revisits the tempestuous events of that fateful summer from his deathbed in Manhattan, where he waits anxiously for Tennessee to visit him one final time. Anja, now legendary film icon Anja Bloom, lives as a recluse in the present-day U.S., until a young man connected to the events of 1953 lures her reluctantly back into the spotlight after he discovers she possesses the only surviving copy of Williams's final play.

What keeps two people together and what breaks them apart? Can we save someone else if we can't save ourselves? Like The Master and The Hours,Leading Men seamlessly weaves fact and fiction to navigate the tensions between public figures and their private lives. In an ultimately heartbreaking story about the burdens of fame and the complex negotiations of life in the shadows of greatness, Castellani creates an unforgettable leading lady in Anja Bloom and reveals the hidden machinery of one of the great literary love stories of the twentieth-century.

Christopher Castellani is the author of three previous novels (the trilogy A Kiss from Maddalena, The Saint of Lost Things, and All This Talk of Love) andThe Art of Perspective, a book of essays on the craft of fiction. He is the son of Italian immigrants, a Guggenheim fellow, and the artistic director of GrubStreet, one of the country's leading creative writing centers. He lives in Boston.

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May 17th-19th

Take 20% off all books, cards, and gifts!

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Friday

May 17

7 PM

Sarah Blake

The Guest Book

"Breathtaking...Blake saturates each scene with sensuous and emotional vibrancy while astutely illuminating sensitive moral quandaries. Blake deftly interrogates the many shades of prejudice and 'the ordinary, everyday wickedness of turning away.' Blake's brilliant and ravishing novel promises to hit big." --Booklist (starred review)

The thought-provoking new novel by New York Times bestselling author Sarah Blake

A lifetime of secrets. A history untold.

No. It is a simple word, uttered on a summer porch in 1936. And it will haunt Kitty Milton for the rest of her life. Kitty and her husband, Ogden, are both from families considered the backbone of the country. But this refusal will come to be Kitty's defining moment, and its consequences will ripple through the Milton family for generations. For while they summer on their island in Maine, anchored as they are to the way things have always been, the winds of change are beginning to stir.

In 1959 New York City, two strangers enter the Miltons' circle. One captures the attention of Kitty's daughter, while the other makes each of them question what the family stands for. This new generation insists the times are changing. And in one night, everything does.

So much so that in the present day, the third generation of Miltons doesn't have enough money to keep the island in Maine. Evie Milton's mother has just died, and as Evie digs into her mother's and grandparents' history, what she finds is a story as unsettling as it is inescapable, the story that threatens the foundation of the Milton family myth.

Moving through three generations and back and forth in time, The Guest Book asks how we remember and what we choose to forget. It shows the untold secrets we inherit and pass on, unknowingly echoing our parents and grandparents. Sarah Blake's triumphant novel tells the story of a family and a country that buries its past in quiet, until the present calls forth a reckoning.

Sarah Blake is the author of the novels Grange House and the New York Times bestseller The Postmistress. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two sons.

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Monday

June 3rd

7 PM

Cara Black

Murder In Bel-Air

Cara Black's riveting 19th installment in her New York Times bestselling Parisian detective series entangles private investigator Aimée Leduc in a dangerous web of international spycraft, post-colonial Franco-African politics, and neighborhood secrets in Paris's 12th arrondissement. 

Parisian private investigator Aimée Leduc is about to go onstage to deliver the keynote address at a tech conference that is sure to secure Leduc Detective some much-needed business contracts when she gets an emergency phone call from her daughter's playgroup: Aimée's own mother, who was supposed to pick Chloe up, never showed. Abandoning her hard-won speaking gig, Aimée rushes to get Chloe, annoyed that her mother has let her down yet again.

But as Aimée and Chloe are leaving the playground, Aimée witnesses the body of a homeless woman being wheeled away from the neighboring convent, where nuns run a soup kitchen. The last person anyone saw the dead woman talking to was Aimée's mother, who has vanished. Trying to figure out what happened to Sydney Leduc, Aimée tracks down the dead woman's possessions, which include a huge amount of cash. What did Sydney stumble into? Is she in trouble?

Cara Black is the author of nineteen books in the New York Times bestselling Aimée Leduc series. She has received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, and her books have been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son and visits Paris frequently.

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Tuesday

June 11

7 PM

Michael Chabon

Pops

For the September 2016 issue of GQ, Michael Chabon wrote a piece about accompanying his son Abraham, then thirteen, to Paris Men's Fashion Week. Possessed with a precocious sense of style, Abe was in his element chatting with designers he idolized and turning a critical eye to the freshest runway looks of the season. Chabon Sr., whose interest in clothing stops at "thrift-shopping for vintage Western shirts or Hermès neckties," sat idly by, staving off yawns and fighting the impulse that the whole thing was a massive waste of time. Despite his own indifference, however, what gradually emerged as Chabon ferried his son to and from fashion shows was a deep respect for his son's passion. The piece quickly became a viral sensation.

With the GQ story as its centerpiece, and featuring six additional essays plus an introduction, Pops illuminates the meaning, magic, and mysteries of fatherhood as only Michael Chabon can.

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Moonglow and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, among many others. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.

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Thursday

July 11

7 PM

Caveat Magister

(Benjamin Wachs)

The Scene That Became Cities

A practical and irreverent guide to Burning Man, its philosophy, why people do this to themselves, and how it matters to the world

 

Over 30 years Burning Man has gone from two families on a San Francisco beach to a global movement in which hundreds of thousands of people around the world create events on every continent. It has been the subject of fawning media profiles, an exhibit in the Smithsonian, and is beloved by tech billionaires and boho counterculturalists alike. But why does it matter? What does it actually have to offer us? The answer, Caveat Magister writes, is simple: Burning Man's philosophy can help us build better communities in which individuals' freedom to follow their own authentic passions also brings them together in common purpose. Burning Man is a prototype, and its philosophy is a how-to manual for better communities, that, instead of rules, offers principles. Featuring iconic and impossible stories from "the playa," interviews with Burning Man's founders and staff, and personal recollections of the late Larry Harvey--Burning Man's founder, "Chief Philosophical Officer," and the author's close friend and colleague--The Scene That Became Cities introduces readers to the experience of Burning Man; explains why it grew; posits how it could impact fields as diverse as art, economics, and politics; and makes the ideas behind it accessible, actionable, and useful.

For the last ten years, Caveat Magister, aka Benjamin Wachs, has been actively writing about Burning Man culture and engaging with Burning Man at the cutting edge of its philosophy, composing over 250 articles about it for the Burning Man website. By 2015, this work had made him, outside of Larry Harvey and his fellow founders, one of the leading interpreters of Burning Man within its own culture. In 2015, Larry Harvey asked Caveat, along with Burning Man's Director of Education, Stuart Mangrum, to sit on a committee, officially called the "Philosophical Center" of the Burning Man nonprofit.

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Thursday

July 18

7 PM

Louise Aronson

Elderhood

Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life

As revelatory as Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, physician and award-winning author Louise Aronson's Elderhood is an essential, empathetic look at a vital but often disparaged stage of life.

For more than 5,000 years, "old" has been defined as beginning between the ages of 60 and 70. That means most people alive today will spend more years in elderhood than in childhood, and many will be elders for 40 years or more. Yet at the very moment that humans are living longer than ever before, we've made old age into a disease, a condition to be dreaded, denigrated, neglected, and denied.

Reminiscent of Oliver Sacks, noted Harvard-trained geriatrician Louise Aronson uses stories from her quarter century of caring for patients, and draws from history, science, literature, popular culture, and her own life to weave a vision of old age that's neither nightmare nor utopian fantasy--a vision full of joy, wonder, frustration, outrage, and hope about aging, medicine, and humanity itself.

Elderhood is for anyone who is, in the author's own words, "an aging, i.e., still-breathing human being."

Louise Aronson, MD, is the author of A History of the Present Illness and is a geriatrician, educator, and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she directs UCSF Health Humanities. A graduate of Harvard Medical School and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, Dr. Aronson has received the Gold Professorship in Humanism, the California Homecare Physician of the Year Award, and the American Geriatrics Society Clinician-Teacher of the Year Award, as well as numerous awards for her teaching, educational research, and writing. The recipient of a MacDowell fellowship and four Pushcart nominations, her articles and stories have appeared in many publications, including the New York TimesNew England Journal of MedicineLancet, and Bellevue Literary Review. She lives in San Francisco.

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Thursday

September 12

7 PM

Charles Postel

Equality

An American Dilemma, 1866-1896

An in-depth study of American social movements after the Civil War and their lessons for today by a prizewinning historian

The Civil War unleashed a torrent of claims for equality--in the chaotic years following the war, former slaves, women's rights activists, farmhands, and factory workers all engaged in the pursuit of the meaning of equality in America. This contest resulted in experiments in collective action, as millions joined leagues and unions. In Equality: An American Dilemma, 1866-1886, Charles Postel demonstrates how taking stock of these movements forces us to rethink some of the central myths of American history.

Despite a nationwide push for equality, egalitarian impulses oftentimes clashed with one another. These dynamics get to the heart of the great paradox of the fifty years following the Civil War and of American history at large: Waves of agricultural, labor, and women's rights movements were accompanied by the deepening of racial discrimination and oppression. Herculean efforts to overcome the economic inequality of the first Gilded Age and the sexual inequality of the late-Victorian social order emerged alongside Native American dispossession, Chinese exclusion, Jim Crow segregation, and lynch law.

Now, as Postel argues, the twenty-first century has ushered in a second Gilded Age of savage socioeconomic inequalities. Convincing and learned, Equality explores the roots of these social fissures and speaks urgently to the need for expansive strides toward equality to meet our contemporary crisis.

Charles Postel is the author of The Populist Vision, which received the 2008 Bancroft Prize and the 2008 Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians. He is a professor of history at San Francisco State University and was elected to the Society of American Historians in 2018.