The book club is back with Ministry for the Future

I think it’s time to restart our online book club.  And I know just the book for us.

For those new to the club, it’s an online reading group focused on titles that might help us better envision the future of higher education.  Some readings are nonfiction, each exploring a different aspect of where academia might be headed (for example) or how the world which academia inhabits might change (for example).  Other readings are science fiction, giving us more imaginative views of higher ed and the world (for example).

The way this works: I pick out a book, sometimes after a poll, then organize a reading schedule for it.  Every week I post about that week’s selection, offering a summary and discussion questions.  Readers participate by, well, reading, then sharing thoughts in comments to these blog posts.  They also respond on other platforms, from Twitter to Facebook to their own websites. I harvest those comments and add them to the next blog post here.  Readers can comment and contribute a great deal, actually – here‘s the most active reading we’ve done so far. Sometimes we’re able to get authors involved for conversation.When the book is finished the series of posts and comments remain live for any future readers.

We started way back in 2014 and have read nineteen books to date.  We’ve been reading between one and five books per year…

…yet not one in 2020 so far.  An obvious explanation is that we’ve been too busy with this year’s chaos.  Another reason is that I’ve been teaching more than ever, four classes over the course of calendar 2020, which has soaked up most of my collaborative reading energies.

But now we’re back!  With the post the book club officially resumes, with a new book to read and a reading schedule.

MinistryFuture coverThe book is Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future (2020), a near future science fiction epic about the next generation or two to tackle the climate crisis.  The plot focuses on a new United Nations agency tasked with addressing the problem, and how they proceed.  A counterpoint character is an aid workers who survives a horrible disaster and tries to figure out how to live afterwards. It’s a rich, ambitious, and frankly optimistic book, and might be just what we need now.  (We read an earlier, similarly future-oriented novel by the same author in 2018.)

You can buy a copy from our little online bookstore or look for a local library copy.


Let’s give everyone a week+ to get a copy, and then:

December 7, 2020 – chapters 1-26 (pp. 1-106).

December 14, 2020 – chapters 27- 50 (pp. 107-225).

December 21, 2020 – chapters 51-68 (pp. 227-340).

December 28, 2020 – chapters 69-88 (pp. 341-443).

January 4, 2021 –  chapters 89-106 (pp. 445-563).

Monday of every week I’ll post here with a summary, some thoughts, and questions for you all.  You can also look at all posts tagged for this reading.

In the meantime, here are some links about the novel to get you started:

Any questions?

In the meantime, happy reading!  And see you soon in the Ministry’s offices.  It’s cold in Switzerland this time of year, so fortify yourself with appropriate drinks and bundle up.


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22 Responses to The book club is back with Ministry for the Future

  1. Ton Zijlstra says:

    I’ll join. Had the book on my list to get already, so this is a good nudge to indeed do so.

  2. Michael Galvin says:

    One of my favorite authors, and the one work i have not yet read, despite requested an availability alert from Amazon:) Just added to Kindle so I”l have it everywhere. See you in the office, Bryan

  3. Bill Benzon says:

    I’ve been thinking about reading it. Now I will.

  4. Vanessa Vaile says:

    Hooray! ¡Ya era la hora! Was already on my list… fwiw picking up debt strike rumors on adjunct networks…all the more reason to share with them.

    “Dystopias Now,” article by KSR in Winter 2020 Commune magazine,

    PS don’t forget the KSR Facebook group

  5. Rick Crain says:

    I’m in and, I have to say, it’s perfect timing for me! I have gone back to school at long last and started a masters in Analytics and your reading schedule lines up almost exactly with our break between fall and spring.

  6. Terry Grim says:

    Bryan – I’m halfway through the book and would love to join a group discussing it. Parts of it move very fast and parts are more educational but I think it is an excellent book for the discussion on climate change.

  7. Jeremy Stanton says:

    Fantastic choice! I’m a big fan of KSR’s work and have been meaning to read this. Count me in.

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  11. Joel D Bloom says:

    I wish I’d known about this when you read New York 2140 — I’ve read that twice and enjoyed it a lot, along with several other KSR books.

    I don’t see a link here of where to go to participate in the weekly meetings, though.
    — Joel

  12. Shawn Nordell says:

    I am really excited to read this book! Its a new author for me but I relish getting such a fresh new perspective on higher ed! Woohoo! I would love to join the Book Club too. Thanks for all that you post and share!

  13. Bill Heinrich says:

    Happy to be joining my first book club experience in this orbit !

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