Favorite Things about Rotary
by Ted Streuli
One of my favorite things about Rotary has nothing to do with programs or food or community service. Those are all fine, important parts of being a Rotarian. I wouldn’t trade them, but I love Unofficial Rotary, the little corner of fellowship that happens somewhere between the badge box and the table. It’s the place of the quick hello, the spot where Mohammed Farzaneh and I swear we’re really going sailing together soon, the space where I discover that Ann Ackerman owns at least one more pink outfit than I’ve seen, the area where I get another good story idea from Phil Busey or Drew Edmondson.
One recent Tuesday summed it up best. Attending Unofficial Rotary, I made a point to thank Russ Florence for a terrific book he’d recommended. I had just finished reading it and enjoyed it greatly. It turns out that part of Unofficial Rotary is the Unofficial Club 29 Book Club, where we swap titles and 15-second reviews of the books holding court on our Kindles.
In case you’re not yet a member of the Unofficial Club 29 Book Club, here are some titles to get you started. Note they are all novels; I read non-fiction all day for a living, so my pleasure reading leans noticeably the other way.
Beartown. That’s the book Russ Florence recommended, probably because it centers on ice hockey and he figured that was good enough for me. It would have been, but Beartown is about a lot more than a hockey team. Written by Sweden’s Fredrik Backman, Beartown takes us to a small forest town where hopes for a brighter future manifest in the local junior ice hockey team, the Bears. And the team has a shot at winning the national title, an event that would reward those who have managed to stick it out in the remote, slowly dying town. The story is about the shared hopes that bring people together, the secrets that push them apart, and the courage required to swim against the flow. Read it.
The Light between Oceans. That’s the only book I’ve read in the last couple of years that was better than Beartown – and I read a lot of books. This novel by M.L. Stedman will challenge your belief in the Four-Way Test. Do the truth and what’s fair to all concerned always go hand-in-hand? Moral angst plays out on a tiny island where a lighthouse keeper and his wife have a secret that is bound to unravel. Stedman explores the meaning of family, loyalty, and the repercussions of deceit through beautifully drawn characters.
All the Light we cannot See. Anthony Doerr’s novel introduces us to a young, blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose paths inevitably cross in occupied France during World War II. It took Doerr a decade to write this story, and its complexity shows in each character. Doerr shows us that people will try to be good to one another despite their circumstances, while making us think about everyone’s personal battles and how little of those we see. All the Light we cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015 and they don’t hand those things out to just anybody. Give it a read.
That will get you started. But if need a few more ideas, just come see us at the Unofficial Club 29 Book Club. We meet, very briefly, during Unofficial Rotary.