Dearest readers,

Thanks to all of you who participated in last week’s Book Club discussion of United States of Americana: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties & Handmade Bitters.

We chatted live with author Kurt B. Reighley and readers on Nov. 3. Thanks to all who sent in questions over the course of the conversation. Five lucky readers will be receiving free copies of the book in the mail soon!

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I’m delighted to announce the next Ask Umbra Book Club selection. Envelope please …

Book cover.And the winner is … Okay, so you already read it in the title. It’s Freedom, the much talked-about page-turner of a novel by Jonathan Franzen.

And it turns out, I’m not the only one featuring the book this month. Another little group you may have heard of is focusing on Franzen’s latest as well. You may have heard of it … the Oprah Book Club? You can view her announcement here. And you can read what Grist’s resident GINK-ologist (that’s Green Inclinations No Kids) Lisa Hymas wrote here.

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I have a feeling our discussion will have a slightly different focus than our friend Oprah’s. Or will it? It’s hard to overlook the issues of overpopulation, endangered species, and destructive consumption in this great work of American fiction — which also touches on family, relationships, sex, love, and heartbreak, among other Big Life Themes. The New York Times refers to Franzen as “a confirmed and well-informed environmentalist,” and we’ll look at how that plays out in this work of fiction.

So go to the library, borrow from a friend or get your own copy of the book, and start reading. You’re going to enjoy it. I can barely put the book down. Just a few days into reading and I’m on page 290.

We’ll start a conversation, to be carried out over the course of three weeks due to the length of the book, on Tuesday, Nov. 23. Looking forward to talking about what we’re all reading!