Revolution for Dummies

December’s Global Forum pick is Revolution for Dummies: Laughing through the Arab Spring by Bassem Yousef. Yousef is a heart surgeon-turned-satirist whose popular Egyptian TV show Al-Bernameg gained a lot of attention and support (and his government’s ire). Dubbed by some “the Jon Stewart of Egypt,” Yousef brought his own humor and criticism to bear during the Egyptian Revolution. In this book, Yousef talks about Egypt, truth, comedy, and how he tried to make a difference in the face of dictators and censorship.


Further Reading – Egypt


Here’s an older interview of Yousef from the Guardian [2013]:


Here’s Yousef’s interview on the Daily Show:


And some articles about what’s happening in Egypt today:


Mubarak just testified in a trial against Morsi, who was unable to respond to questions without permissions from Sisi.


In Egypt, fake news becomes weapon of choice to crush dissent


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi isn’t like Mubarak. He’s much worse.


For anyone interested in a more detailed report of human rights in Egypt today, check out Human Rights Watch’s 2018 Report


Not about Egypt per se, but for anyone who missed it Time Magazine made journalists the 2018 Person of the Year.

China’s Second Continent

November’s title was China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa by Howard French. French travels around Africa to see how a surge in Chinese migration and investment is affecting both those migrants and the countries where they’re headed. A fascinating look at a globalizing world and the people caught up in it.


There are surprisingly few actual books related to Chinese influence abroad (aside from academic titles). Instead of the usual recommended titles list, here is a list of articles that explore Chinese influence abroad.


Articles that you have recommended or were brought up in the discussion [thank you!]:

New York Times – China Rules

MIT Technology Review – Who needs democracy when you have data?


For more about China’s role in Africa:


CNBC (2018) – Indian military scrambles to keep up after China moves to put forces in Africa

CNN (2018) – Employed by China [Interactive about Ethiopia, China, and jobs]

The Economist (2018) – China is broadening its efforts to win over African audiences

Washington Post (2018) – African countries have started to push back against Chinese development aid. Here’s why.



For anyone curious about China’s plans around the world, including it’s One Belt, One Road Initiative, here are a few articles about that: 


The Guardian (2018) – What is China’s Belt and Road Initiative? 

CNBC – The New Silk Road: Ambition and Opportunity [Documentary]

New Yorker – A New Silk Road [With photo gallery]

And here’s the One Belt, One Road Initiative as stated by the Chinese government


And an interesting article about how Chinese trade impacts Gloucester:

Gloucester Daily Times – China tariffs threaten booming lobster business

The Nordic Theory of Everything

Our October book was The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen. In it, she compares life, culture, economics, and more between her native Finland and the United States.


Find a list of related readings here.


Anu Partanen  has also written a number of articles and op-eds about some of the topics she covers in the book, which you can check out here:


Next month’s meeting is November 29, when we’ll be discussing China’s Second Continent

The Far Away Brothers

The September selection was The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham. Markham follows the story of two twin brothers as they leave their home in El Salvador and take the trek north to America, encountering many dangers along the way and then navigating their new lives in a foreign country – and  adolescence. If you missed the meeting or just have additional thoughts, please comment below!


For anyone looking for related books on the topic of immigration and the border, click here for some suggested titles.


Lauren Markham also gave a recent interview about her book and work (thank you Carolyn!)


Next month’s book is The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen.



There Was and There Was Not

August’s selection for Global Forum was There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possiblity in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond by Meline Toumani. Toumani writes about exploring the legacy of the Armenian Genocide, from her upbringing in the Armenian diaspora here in the U.S., to travels through Turkey and Armenia. A moving book about history, belonging, and memory. 


For a list of related readings on the topic of the Armenian Genocide, click here.



A few years ago, a billboard put up by a group denying the genocide in Boston caused controversy, which you can read about here.


On a brighter local note, the Armenian memorial and park in Boston has a website here that talks about it and even has events hosted there. Thank you Susan for mentioning this!



The church in Lake Van Toumani visits and discusses has an entry in Atlas Obscura with great photos, here. (Thank you Betsy)

The Monk of Mokha

July’s selection was The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers. Eggers tells the true story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni-American from San Francisco who makes it his mission to revive a coffee industry in Yemen that has been all but lost. When he finds himself in the middle of the ongoing Yemeni Civil War, he must find a way to get home alive – without giving up his dream.


Here is the Further Reading List, with books for those looking to learn more about Yemen or the coffee industry.


We tried to acquire some of Mokhtar’s coffee for our meeting, but due to a mix-up we nearly got green, un-roasted coffee berries before cancelling the order (so be careful when buying coffee, it can be complicated). Thankfully, John graciously donated some of his coffee from Guatemala (thank you again!). For anyone interested in buying the coffee, though, you can check out Port of Mokha’s website. There are also three Blue Bottle cafes around Boston.


If anyone is curious about the lawsuit against Mokhtar’s company, you can read about it here:


For anyone looking to better understand the Yemen Conflict, there are great background guides from The BBC and Council on Foreign Relations.


Have any thoughts on the book or topic? Share below! And see you in August to discuss There Was and There Was Not by Meline Toumani.





Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Our June 2018 book was Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. Boo shows us what life is like in the Mumbai slum of Annawadi, where thousands live on a few swampy acres between a major airport and luxury hotels. She shares the stories of trash collectors, slumlords, and many others seeking to thrive – or just survive – in a rapidly changing India.


For anyone interested, here’s Katherine Boo’s interview with The Guardian (from 2012) about what Annawadi was like for her, personally.


Click here for a list of book suggestions related to Behind the Beautiful Forevers and India.


Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!


…to the Book Group

Hello and welcome to the Global Forum Book Group!


We meet the last Thursday of each month at 6:30pm, right here at the library. Each month we read a book about a current issue or location and discuss it – whether you have thoughts on the book itself or the topic generally. All are welcome and no registration required, just show up! We’ll have the next book available to borrow at the main desk if you need a copy.


For current dates and selections, go here.

For a list of past book selections, go here.

For the further reading lists for each book, go here.


For questions contact Alex Jones at


…to the Blog

This blog is an extension of the book group. Each book will have an its own post, so if you miss a meeting you can still share your thoughts as well as any related articles, books, or other suggestions you want to share.


Please keep all comments and conversation civil and (at least tangentially) related to the book group and our topics.


Resources for Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Rulebooks:

Player’s Handbook: The core rules for all players

Dungeon Master’s Guide: Rules for running the game

Monster Manual: A book of monsters and encounters for DMs 

Volo’s Guide to Monsters: Additional lore/monsters for DMs and new character options for players

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Expanded classes, spells, and character options

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes: New lore and monsters for DMs and new character options for players



Helpful links:

This is an abbreviated version of the Player’s Handbook, which is good to get started (but does not include everything):



Roll20’s 5e Compendium is a great resource for abilities, items, spells, and stats:



This wiki has all the class, race, and archetype options for building a character. Includes most (but not all) information from the rulebooks: