Newsletter: Book club begins 2020 with Ocean Vuong’s ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’


Good morning, and welcome to the Book Club newsletter.

Join us on Jan. 27 when the book club launches its 2020 season by welcoming Ocean Vuong, award-winning poet and author of the bestselling “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.”

Vuong’s debut novel takes the form of a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. “‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ is a book of sustained beauty and lyricism, earnest and relentless, a series of high notes that trembles exquisitely almost without break,” says reviewer Steph Cha.


Tickets are now available for the Jan. 27 evening with Vuong at the Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood. Get tickets.

P.S. Book club tickets make a great gift!

Keep reading

The book club’s February pick is “From Our Land to Our Land” by Los Angeles author and former poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez. It’s a new collection of stories and essays about race, culture, identity and belonging. Rodriguez joins book club readers on Feb. 20.

On March 11, we’ll welcome Jeanine Cummins, author of the much-talked-about “American Dirt.” Her upcoming novel is the story of an Acapulco bookstore owner who tries to cross the U.S. border with her young son after a drug cartel guns down her family. It has earned early praise from Sandra Cisneros, Don Winslow, Stephen King, Ann Patchett and John Grisham. Here’s an excerpt.

Tickets for both events are coming soon.

Father Gregory Boyle talking with the book club on Monday, Dec. 16.
(Ana Venegas / For The Times)

The power of kinship

Father Gregory Boyle says he believes in the power of a good diagnosis.

That outlook framed his response to a question from a reader at our Dec. 16 breakfast event. Her question: “The two crises I see that just burden me are the homelessness crisis we have in L.A. and how immigrants are being treated right now. What hope can you offer us on those two things?”


“No treatment plan worth a damn was ever born of a bad diagnosis,” Boyle told members of the sold-out crowd, who came to hear him talk about his latest book, “Barking to the Choir.”

“If you just think the solution to homelessness is a house, then I think it’s a bad diagnosis in the same way that jail is the solution to people who color outside the lines ... and then you discover everybody is born wanting the same thing, which touches upon the immigration issue.”

In a conversation with author Héctor Tobar, Boyle talked about his three decades providing jobs and counseling to L.A. gang members and how his work offers daily inspiration — and often humorous anecdotes — for writing two books. A third is in progress.

Attendees react to Father Gregory Boyle during our recent book club breakfast.
(Ana Venegas / For The Times)

Thank you

We started our community book club earlier this year, and the enthusiastic response from readers has exceeded all expectations.

Thank you to everyone who bought tickets, who brought a friend along to an event, who wrote to tell us what we got right and what you’d like to read next. Thank you to the brilliant authors who shared their work and the audience members who shared their stories, too. Thank you to the reader who raced up to the stage to share a shawl with Laila Lalami, and thank you to the book clubbers who took the time to meet and listen to former gang members at Homeboy Industries.


The L.A. Times Book Club is about so much more than the remarkable books we’ve been reading. It’s also about bringing people together to share a common read, a common experience, and to explore stories and ideas that bring Los Angeles together. I’m excited that we’ll be growing in 2020 with more events and more conversations every month. Stay tuned!

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