Plane of possibility?

This is the inaugural newsletter of the Reading Odyssey – the informal organization (in process of becoming a formal nonprofit) that I began with the intent to help adults – including myself – learn to think and to see in new ways through reading and discussing some of the best books and ideas of humanity.

About 150 people have joined me in this odyssey since 2005, where in small phone/web-based reading groups, we tackle Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Darwin, and other great thinkers and writers.

And I am proud to say that over *250,000* have joined the campaigns on Facebook and participated in our large-scale free phone-based lectures by leading scientists, academics and writers. Yet, fewer adults are reading fewer books – especially books by the likes of Homer, Herodotus, Darwin, Plato and Miguel de Cervantes.

We think it matters that fewer adults are reading fewer books. And we want to change that.

Everyone is welcome but we do make a special effort to find the many adults who are interested and curious but have not read these kinds of good books (at least since college).

Bread is requisite, but Maslow was wrong. It is not a hierarchy of needs that drives us but a plane of possibility. Humans do need bread but they need good books and good ideas too – all at the same time.

And it’s the mission of the Reading Odyssey to bring the possibility of thinking about ideas and reading good books to busy adults.

We accomplish our mission by making it easy.

People can start by listening to a lecture.

Here’s how the lectures work:

1. Phone/web-based
Our lectures are done via web or teleconference, giving listeners an  opportunity to sit in their offices or living rooms and directly hear from and ask questions of the leading thinkers of our day.

2. Varied times
We vary the times of the lectures – sometimes in the evening, sometimes at the lunch hour.

3. Always interactive
Every lecture is interactive. Listeners can e-mail questions and get direct responses from leading academics, scientists or writers.

4. Free
The lectures are free. 

The reading groups require more commitment – primarily to read the text and talk about it. But, even with the reading groups, we’ve made them easy.

Here’s how the reading groups work:

1. Phone-based
We run the reading groups over the phone, which means the readers can be anywhere – at home, at work or in the park.

2. A chapter a month
We read slowly – about a chapter a month.

3. Short sessions 
We don’t meet for long. We meet once a month for an hour to discuss that month’s chapter.

4. Trained moderators
We have trained moderators who lead the discussions in the Socratic style.

5. Top academics 
We often have top academics join us for Q&A. 

6. Free for first-timers
Reading groups are free for first-timers; veterans help cover the costs. There are only 15 free spots available in each group and 15 veteran spots.

I love the experience of reading good books with a community of adults. We readers in the Reading Odyssey have become friends. We have explored this plane of possibility together and we have all seen each other grow in our ability to think, ponder, imagine and create. And we bring our greater capacity to think and to innovate to our jobs, our families, our communities.

Join us.

Sign-up for an upcoming free phone lecture:

– Behind the scenes at the American Museum of Natural History

– Conversation with the author of “Seeking Wisdom”:

Or join our Facebook Darwin project:

Or register for an upcoming reading group:

– Homer’s Odyssey starts in the fall of 2009*

– Landmark Xenophon starts January 2010*

And now a question for *you*:

What do you think about our mission to encourage more adults to read good books and attend lectures – to help expand their ways of thinking and seeing? Does it matter?

Respond here on this blog.

I look forward to seeing you somewhere on this plane of possibility.



P.S. And e-mail me if you want to volunteer (want to help us build a better website?) or pledge a donation good for when we get official nonprofit status.

Phil Terry
Founder, Reading Odyssey 

03. June 2009 by Arrian
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