Open Book / Open Mind is MPL’s live conversation series of top authors discussing their new books and the important events of our time; the series was founded by Montclair residents Jennifer Dorr and David Jones. The series transitioned to a webcast format during the lockdown in April 2020 and will remain mostly virtual through 2021. All books are available for sale by our partner, watchung booksellers, which offers free curbside pickup in Montclair, and to borrow from MPL. For more information, contact MPL programming librarian Ariel Zeitlin.
Since Open Book / Open Mind went online last year, we’ve hosted Isabel Wilkerson, Ann Patchett, Jhumpa Lahiri, Charles Blow, Alice Hoffman, Christina Baker Kline, Ada Calhoun, Elizabeth Kolbert, Michael Schmidt, Jonathan Alter, Peter Baker, Susan Glasser, Jesse Wegman and more. We’ve drawn as many as 400 or 750 for some events, including attendees from 35 states outside New Jersey as well as Canada, Europe, the UK, the Caribbean, Thailand and New Zealand.
Please use the blue navigation buttons above to learn more about the beginnings of Open Book / Open Mind in 2015 and to view a complete annotated list of programs with YouTube links for each year.
Thursday, September 9, 7 p.m. Lawrence Wright; “The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid.” In conversation with Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD, editor in chief of Kaiser Health News (“An American Sickness”). “Wright…has performed a virtuoso feat and given us a book of panoramic breadth… managing to surprise us about even those episodes we … thought we knew well … [With] lively exchanges about spike proteins and non-pharmaceutical interventions and disease waves, Wright’s storytelling dexterity makes all this come alive.”—The New York Times Book Review
Sunday, September 19, 4 p.m. Mary Roach; “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law.” In conversation with Lulu Miller (“Why Fish Don’t Exist”) of NPR. A funny and disturbing exploration of the inevitable consequences of a shrinking habitat by the beloved bestselling science writer. “The expert on quirky science writing doesn’t disappoint. In Roach’s…newest book, she brings readers on her journey into the realm of human-wildlife conflict…A must-read for wildlife enthusiasts, popular science readers, and anyone who has enjoyed Roach’s other books.”—Kirkus Reviews
IN PERSON: Saturday, October 2, 4 p.m. Rob Reich and Mehram Sahrabi; “System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How to Reboot.” In conversation with journalist Dale Russakoff (“The Prize”). Co-sponsored by Succeed2gether’s Montclair Literary Festival. Two distinguished Stanford professors share the secrets of their famous, long-running interdisciplinary course on rethinking the roots of computer science. “Enough with the breathless dreams of digital utopias and poisonous polemics about technological dystopias! In “System Error,” we finally have a book about the digital revolution that is serious rather than sensationalistic. Read this if you want to understand how to shape our technological future and reinvigorate democracy along the way.”—Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix
The program will take place in front of the First Congregational Church of Montclair, 40 S. Fullerton Ave.
NO REGISTRATION REQUIRED
Thursday, October 14, 7 p.m. Alice Hoffman; “The Book of Magic.” In conversation with Elisabeth Egan of The New York Times Book Review. The acclaimed novelist returns to Montclair to discuss the grand finale of her bestselling Practical Magic quartet. “Ultimately about the very human magic of family and love and actions that echo through generations. Filled with secrets and splendor and light and dark, the novel works as well as a stand-alone as it does as a conclusion to a mesmerizing series. It casts a spell.” — Matt Haig, New York Times best-selling author of “The Midnight Library”
Sunday, October 24, 4 p.m. Sandra Cisneros; “Martita, I Remember You.” The author of “The House on Mango Street” will discuss her latest work, a poignant lyrical novella about a three-cornered friendship between women that begins with a youthful sojourn in Paris, as well Cisneros’s own legendary life in letters. ““In this welcome and vital return to fiction, Cisneros, beloved by readers and the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, portrays three adventurous young women seeking their fortunes in Paris. . . . Every heart-revving scene is sensuously and incisively rendered, cohering into a vivid, tender, funny, bittersweet, and haunting episodic tale of peril, courage, concession, selfhood, and friendship.” —Booklist (starred review)
IN PERSON: Sunday, November 7, 4 p.m. Andrea Elliott; “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival, and Hope in an American City” in conversation with journalist Lydia Polgreen, head of content for Gimlet Media. “A Pulitzer Prize—winning investigative reporter for the New York Times, Elliott wrote a five-part series in 2013 about Dasani, an 11-year-old living in a homeless shelter in New York. A blistering account of a child and a family caught up in the churn of race, poverty, gentrification, and substandard schooling, it received a record-breaking three million hits and inspired 22,000 tweets. Here, Elliott expands the series with material bringing Dasani up to age 18.”—Library Journal
Thursday, December 2, Gayle Jessup White; “Reclamation: Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, and a Descendant’s Search for Her Family’s Lasting Legacy.” A descendant and activist who works at Monticello records her remarkable journey to definitively understand her heritage and reclaim it, offering a compelling portrait of what it means to be a Black woman in America, to reconcile with the legacy of racism, and to ensure the nation lives up to the ideals advocated by her legendary ancestor.
Sunday, January 10, 2021, 4 p.m. Ann Patchett; “The Dutch House.” In conversation with Jeanine Cummins (“American Dirt”). A longtime New York Times bestseller by the lyrical award-winning author of “Commonwealth,” “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder.” “Patchett’s concern here, as in much of her fiction, is with the often unconventional families we cobble together….you won’t want to put down this engrossing, warmhearted book even after you’ve read the last page.”—NPR
Thursday, February 11, 7 p.m. Charles Blow; “The Devil You Know.” In conversation with Jim Johnson, former chair of the Brennan Center for Social Justice. A New York Times bestseller. “‘The Devil You Know’ [is New York Times columnist] Charles Blow’s own declaration of radical thought — for Black Americans to reconsider their Great Migration North and imagine new possibilities of Black political might…throughout the book, Blow grounds his ideas in this central question: ‘What could and should Black people do to acquire and maintain the economic and political power — for the many, not just for the few — that the Great Migration failed to secure?’”—NPR
Monday, February 22, 2021, 7 p.m. Isabel Wilkerson; “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” In conversation with NYU journalism professor Rachel Swarns (“American Tapestry”). A #1 New York Times bestseller by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Warmth of Other Suns.” “An instant American classic about our abiding national sin…how brutal misperceptions about race have disfigured the American experiment”—The New York Times
Sunday, February 28, 4 p.m. Gabrielle Glaser; “American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption.” In conversation with bestselling novelist and editor Benilde Little. “‘American Baby’ tracks the unconscionable losses incurred by one woman and child. But it’s a reminder of how routinely and ruthlessly this country has stripped its most vulnerable populations of the things that matter most…The intimate story of Glaser’s subjects makes her book compelling, but the societal dots she’s able to connect make it important.”—The Washington Post
Sunday, March 21, 4 p.m. Elizabeth Kolbert; “Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.” In conversation with fellow environmentalist writer Michelle Nijhuis (“Beloved Beasts”). Co-sponsored by Succeed2gether’s Montclair Literary Festival. “A fascinating survey of novel attempts to manage natural systems of all sizes…Beautifully and insistently, [Pulitzer Prize-winner] Kolbert [“The Sixth Extinction”] shows us that it is time to think radically about the ways we manage the environment…[This book is] important, necessary, urgent and phenomenally interesting.”—The New York Times
Thursday, April 22, 7 p.m. Quiara Alegría Hudes; “My Broken Language: A Memoir.” In conversation with Elena Martinez, co-artistic director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center. A Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright best known for writing the book to ‘In the Heights.’ “Quiara Alegría Hudes is in her own league. Her sentences will take your breath away. How lucky we are to have her telling our stories.”
—Lin-Manuel Miranda, award-winning creator of “Hamilton”
Thursday, May 6, 7 p.m. Jhumpa Lahiri; “Whereabouts.” In conversation with Kate Tuttle of The Boston Globe. A New York Times bestseller. “[Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist] Lahiri has demonstrated that she is a master of cultural collisions. ‘Whereabouts’ returns to her ever-present theme, now in an Italian setting, of the terrors and joys wrought by bridging worlds.—The San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, May 20, 7 p.m. Barry Meier; “Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies.” In conversation with Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo News. “A former New York Times reporter and a member of the paper’s team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, Meier here exposes the big business that is private spying today…Want dirt on your enemies? No problem! It’s cheaper and easier than ever, as these spies stare into our private lives, checking out our emails and shaping what we see on social media, and dangerously influence political elections.”—Library Journal
We are grateful to all of the wonderful authors, conversation partners, library staffers, and, of course, viewers who have made Open Book / Open Mind Online such a success in 2021.
Open Book / Open Mind is presented by the Montclair Public Library through the generous financial support of The Montclair Public Library Foundation, The Montclair Foundation, and The Investors Foundation.
And, as always, the series is made possible by the support of the Open Book / Open Mind Advisory Board: Co-chairs and series founders Jennifer Dorr and David Jones; Jonathan Alter, Neal Carruth, Ivan Held, Marc Lacey, DT Max, Margot Sage-el, Rachel Swarns, Kate Tuttle, Juan Milà and Susan Weinberg.