GOOD's First Ever Book Club: Jonathan Franzen's Freedom (Plus a Contest)

Rightly or wrongly, we tend to think it rare in the 21st century for a novel to galvanize national discussion the way books might have in earlier eras. Sure, we have our Twilights and Potters and girls with reptilian tattoos, but how often does a work of serious fiction penetrate the literary bubble and reach the masses?

That's why, with the inaugural edition of GOOD's Book Club, we're tackling the macdaddy du jour of literary fiction: Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.

Love him or loathe him, Franzen, in all his Oprah-snubbing, avant-garde-distancing, Time-cover-gracing, feminist-but-maybe-also-kinda-misogynist glory, has crafted what looks to be another towering, devastating laceration of contemporary American culture. A few weeks after publishing the follow-up to his National Book Award-winning 2001 novel, The Corrections, Franzen finds himself atop a veritable throne. Deservedly? Maybe not! Over-hyped? Perhaps! Do you have an opinion on him? We hope so!

Over the next month, we'll be reading Freedom, and as an experiment in large-scale shared experience, we invite you to grab a copy from your local book store, library, or e-reader proprietor, and read along with us. Two weeks from today, GOOD Features Editor Siobhan O'Connor and I will post an online discussion covering everything up to page 290 (the novel's midpoint and the end of a chapter), and we invite you to sound off with comments, questions, or angry take-downs of our analysis.

One month from today, we'll post a finale, in which we discuss the entire book. At that point, we're holding a contest to see who among you can write the best 200-word review of the novel. We're looking for insight, thoughtfulness, and entertaining prose—not a specific response one way or the other. The best three reviews (as determined by the editors of GOOD) will be published on the website, and the over-all winner will receive a free subscription and a GOOD T-shirt. If it's a success, the book club will become a standard monthly feature in the world of GOOD.

Until then, happy reading.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less