Reading Discoveries book discussion at the County Museum

Posted By Staff

The San Bernardino County Museum is about to round out the second year of its monthly book discussion program, Reading Discoveries. Held every second Wednesday of the month at 7:30pm, this discussion is open to public free of charge.

Since its inception in 2009, the group has read about early fossil explorations, changing global weather patterns, evolution, how the domestication of plants and animals has influenced human societies, the science and social impacts of earthquakes, Latino history, the history and science of salt, the wisdom of crowds, and the glory days of citrus in the inland area.

“I started this program because I like to read and discuss books with other people,” said Curator of Education Jolene Redvale, discussion facilitator for the program. “We read books in natural and cultural history that are relevant to understanding our place in the world. That gives us a really wide scope of titles we can enjoy.”

Many participants feel the same way as Redvale. “We talk about many things in our discussions besides the book of the month. People’s different backgrounds really add to the discussion,” said Valerie Mitchell, a teacher in San Bernardino. “Members of the group bring different perspectives to current ideas,” described Drew Feldmann, of San Bernardino. “

“We also talk about other things besides the book,” said participant Ed Reyes of Redlands. “Sometimes I come to the discussion even though I didn’t read the book. Afterwards, I have felt like reading it and have enjoyed it.” Teacher Mary Pettitt also enjoys the conversation with adults.

On January 12, the group will discuss “The Fate of the Mammoth: Fossils, Myth and History,” by Claudine Cohen. This book details the history of the paleontology through the lens of mammoths. To enhance the January discussion, Redvale suggests that readers attend a lecture by Curator of Paleontology Eric Scott titled “Dinosaurs in Our Backyard,” on Sunday, January 9 at 2pm. The book discussion and the lecture blend well to build an understanding of this popular subject matter.

On February 9, two books have been selected; “Seashore Life of Southern California,” New and Revised Edition by Sam Hinton, and “Under the Sea Wind” by Rachel L. Carson. Participants will plan to informally journey to the coast to observe tide pools in March.

“Many people ask, ‘Do I have to read the book to be able to come?’” Redvale said. “Absolutely No! Everyone is welcome at the discussion. People have come without having read the book, and leave saying they will. Often, those who attend have a particular interest in the book’s subject, and they only attend once or twice. It’s nice to have people who bring lots of previous knowledge to the discussion, because it’s one more way of learning more about it. The discussions generally last two hours but we have stayed later a few times. Sometimes the conversation is so compelling, we just can’t quit.”

On March 9, the group will read and discuss “Ecology of Fear” by Mike Davis. He will also be at the museum for a book signing on Sunday, March 6 at 2pm, where visitors will get a chance to chat with him. “Ecology of Fear” will be available for sale at the Museum Store beginning of January, 2011.

The group will be inviting more authors to participate with presentations and book signings. “In 2009, we invited a number of authors whose work is represented in the book Inlandia, which we read over the summer. We had several authors attend each of the two discussions we had, and their input really enhanced the discussion,” continued Redvale.

Beginning in 2011, the Museum Store will be stocking the books the group reads. Redvale plans to have a corner in the Museum Store with previous and upcoming titles, and a summary of the group’s discussion. She hopes that this will help visitors’ decision to participate in the discussion.

Participant Dale Mitchell agrees: “Come to the discussion, and pick up the next month’s book.” Kim Clinton of Redlands added, “We all enjoy bouncing ideas off of each other. It’s a group of people discussing things outside of work.”

The group also enjoyed having Dr. David Hayes-Bautista participate in the discussion of his book, “La Nueva California,” earlier this year. “As with most of our book titles, Dr. Hayes-Bautista’s book drew many new participants to the program,” Redvale said. “We feel that discussing the book with its author present provides unique opportunities to express our views and get questions answered.”

Author Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason participated via e-mail from his home in New Zealand when the group discussed his book, “When Elephants Weep.” “An e-mail discussion across the globe and multiple time zones was challenging at first, but we got the hang of it and had a great, rich discussion with him,” said Redvale. “Mason expressed his appreciation of our perspectives on his work.”

“I ask for input on the books we read,” explained Redvale. “Sometimes I bring in a stack of books, and let the participants vote for the ones that sound compelling. I aim for a diverse range of topics and authors.” Redvale makes the final choices and sends them to participants, as well as producing flyers to hand out to visitors.

Participants also enjoy reading in new topic areas. Many agree that they read books for the group they would never read otherwise. The conversations often draw in subjects from previous books, further enhancing the exploration of our world. Occasionally, participants don’t favor a particular book, but that still didn’t deter an enjoyable discussion.

Redvale has added a Friday afternoon discussion, beginning February 11 at 2pm. “This event is for those folks who are not available on the usual Wednesday evening, or who may not like to be out driving after dark. I want to make the program available to everyone. The Friday groups will initially meet every other month, and discuss the current and previous month’s books,” said Redvale.

The Reading Discoveries book discussion is on every second Wednesday of the month at 7:30pm, and on second Friday on even-numbered month at 2pm. This program is open to public free of charge. For more information of the group and book titles through June 2011, contact Jolene Redvale at (909) 307-2669 ext. 252 or

The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays and holiday Mondays from 9am to 5pm. The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. If assistive listening devices or other auxiliary aids are needed in order to participate in museum exhibits or programs, requests should be made through Museum Visitor Services at least three business days prior to your visit. Visitor Services’ telephone number is 909-307-2669 ext. 229 or (TDD) 909-792-1462.