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Ruined Readers Book Club

Welcome to Ruined Readers! In 2016, JVC Northwest launched a book club as part of our 60th Anniversary celebrations. The title “Ruined Readers” is based on a phrase from our beloved co-founder, Jack Morris, SJ, who said that a year as a Jesuit Volunteer would leave you “ruined for life.” 

We offer both in-person and online meetings across the country as well as a self-reflection guide for individuals. Each round is inspired by one of the four values of JVC Northwest: Community, Simple Living, Social & Ecological Justice, and Spirituality/Reflection. There are opportunities to host a book club, participate in a club near you, or receive a self-reflection guide.

Ruined Readers Book Club is organized by our Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Laura DaCruz. Please contact Laura with any questions at ldacruz@jvcnorthwest.org.


  • Hosts have two responsibilities:
    • (1) Provide a gathering place. It can be in your home, by reserving space in a public area, or online.
    • (2) Facilitate one or more discussions about the book.
  • No experience is required to host! JVC Northwest will provide you with a detailed facilitation guide.

Formal host registration has closed. Contact Laura if you’d still like to host this round.


  • Participants may join an in-person group in their city or any available online group.
  • If your city is not listed for this round (i.e., no host has signed up), you may consider hosting yourself!
  • You can also participate via a self-reflection guide.
  • Participants usually have 1 – 2 months to read the book. Book club gathering dates will ultimately be determined by each host.

Upcoming Selection (Oct. - Dec. 2023)

Book: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay (2019)
Value: Spirituality
Suggested timeline:

  • October: Get the book and begin reading
  • November: Keep reading, first gathering estimated
  • December: Finish reading, second/final gathering estimated

From the Publisher: The New York Times bestselling book of essays celebrating ordinary delights in the world around us by one of America’s most original and observant writers, award-winning poet Ross Gay. The winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry offers up a spirited collection of short lyrical essays, written daily over a tumultuous year, reminding us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders.

Current Cities

Don’t see your city? Consider hosting a new group! Contact Laura at ldacruz@jvcnorthwest.org.

Sustainable Ways to Get the Book

  • Order it through your local library. This takes longer, but it’s free – and ensures everyone in the community can read the book!
  • Buy from a Black-owned bookstore. Check out Bookshop.org for a list in your state.
  • For buying online, try BetterWorldBooks, an ethical online bookshop and certified B-corp founded by the University of Notre Dame.
  • Purchase from your local community bookshop.

Prior Selections

Learning to Pray by James Martin, SJ. From Goodreads: “A trusted guide walking beside us as we navigate our unique spiritual paths, Martin lays out the different styles and traditions of prayer throughout Christian history and invites us to experiment and discover which works best to feed our soul and build intimacy with our Creator. Father Martin makes clear there is not one secret formula for praying. But like any relationship, each person can discover the best style for building an intimate relationship with God, regardless of religion or denomination. Prayer, he teaches us, is open and accessible to anyone willing to open their heart.” (Spirituality/Reflection)

Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey. What would it be like to live in a well-rested world? Far too many of us have claimed productivity as the cornerstone of success. Brainwashed by capitalism, we subject our bodies and minds to work at an unrealistic, damaging, and machine‑level pace –– feeding into the same engine that enslaved millions into brutal labor for its own relentless benefit. In Rest Is Resistance, Tricia Hersey, aka the Nap Bishop, casts an illuminating light on our troubled relationship with rest and how to imagine and dream our way to a future where rest is exalted. (Simple Living)

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Nonfiction, 320 pages. From the official description: “With growing support for movements such as the campaign to abolish Columbus Day and the Dakota Access Pipeline protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is an essential resource providing historical threads that are crucial for understanding the present. Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the U.S. and shows how policy against Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them.”

Upstream by Mary Oliver. A book of essays, 178 pages. From Good Reads:  “This radiant collection of her work reaffirms Oliver as a passionate and prolific observer…in life’s smallest corners.” (Simple Living)

Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner. A novel, 344 pages. From Good Reads:  “Seth Kantner presents an Alaska far removed from majestic clichés.” Cutuk Hawley grows up on the Alaska plains. Jeered by native children because he is white, Cutuk becomes a marginal participant in a village life caught up between cultures. (Social & Ecological Justice)

Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith  by Henri Nouwen. 160 pages. Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird collaborated to produce this book after Henri Nouwen’s death.  Michael and Rebecca are two longtime students of Nouwen, and had taken his course on spiritual direction and supplemented the course with Nouwen’s unpublished writings.  Distinct chapters in the course of our lives invite reflection about “Who am I to be now?” (Spirituality/Reflection)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is a compelling story, for which Adichie won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Fiction award. Americanah tells the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who immigrates to the United States to attend university. The novel traces Ifemelu’s life in both countries, threaded by her love story with high school classmate Obinze. This novel examines blackness in America, Nigeria and Britain, but it’s also a steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience — a platitude made fresh by the accuracy of Adichie’s observations. 

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. “Being privileged doesn’t mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right. It means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of the puzzle,” Oluo writes in her bestselling book. Filled with incredible wisdom, actionable advice, and invaluable insight into today’s racial landscape, So You Want to Talk About Race? does exactly that: it gives readers the missing pieces so they can start to have empathetic, fact-based conversations about some of the most important racial issues facing Americans today.

I Am Yours by Reema ZamanI Am Yours is the story of Reema Zaman’s unwavering fight to protect and free her voice from those who have sought to silence her. From Bangladesh, to Thailand, to New York, to Oregon, through gorgeous prose as beautiful as it is biting, poetic as it is political, and healing as it is haunting, Zaman explores the many difficulties, dangers, and ultimately, the necessity for all women, all people, to own and use their voices. With astonishing courage and intimacy, Zaman is a reader’s author, offering up a memoir written to alleviate the loneliness that often arises from being human in this world. A voice of a new era, a revolution in itself, an iconic debut that promises to shake global literature.” Reema also generously joined us by Zoom to discuss her book, writing process, and themes of finding one’s voice, social justice, and more. To watch a recording of that virtual book club, click here.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is a compelling story that addresses police brutality, code-switching, racial profiling, microaggressions, and other issues through its sympathetic (and funny!) teen protagonist, Starr Carter. Centering a character who is coming to better understand herself as a young black woman allows us to accompany her through her identity formation, ignited in large part by the tragedy of her friend’s death at the hands of the police. Published February 28, 2017, The Hate U Give debuted at number one on The New York Times young adult best-seller list where it remained for 50 weeks.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. Taylor has become increasingly uncomfortable with our tendency to associate all that is good with lightness and all that is evil and dangerous with darkness. Doesn’t God work in the nighttime as well? In Learning to Walk in the Dark, Taylor asks us to put aside our fears and anxieties and to explore all that God has to teach us “in the dark.” She argues that we need to move away from our “solar spirituality” and ease our way into appreciating “lunar spirituality” (since, like the moon, our experience of the light waxes and wanes). Through darkness we find courage, we understand the world in new ways, and we feel God’s presence around us, guiding us through things seen and unseen. Often, it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most.

“Strangers in Their Own Land” by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley, “embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground with the people she meets—among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident—people whose concerns are ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.”

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. “Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.”

The Year Without a Purchase by Scott Dannemiller. “The Year without a Purchase is the story of one family’s quest to stop shopping and start connecting. Scott Dannemiller and his wife, Gabby, are former missionaries who served in Guatemala. Ten years removed from their vow of simple living, they found themselves on a never-ending treadmill of consumption where each purchase created a desire for more and never led to true satisfaction. The difference between needs and wants had grown very fuzzy, and making that distinction clear again would require drastic action: no nonessential purchases for a whole year. No clothes, no books, no new toys for the kids. If they couldn’t eat it or use it up within a year (toilet paper and shampoo, for example), they wouldn’t buy it.”

Blood and Earth by Kevin Bales. From the author’s website: A leading expert on modern-day slavery, Kevin Bales has traveled to some of the world’s most dangerous places documenting and battling human trafficking. In the course of his reporting, Bales began to notice a pattern emerging: Where slavery existed, so did massive, unchecked environmental destruction. But why? Bales set off to find the answer in a fascinating and moving journey that took him into the lives of modern-day slaves and along a supply chain that leads directly to the cellphones in our pockets. What he discovered is that even as it destroys individuals, families, and communities, new forms of slavery that proliferate in the world’s lawless zones also pose a grave threat to the environment. Modern-day slavery is destroying the planet and directly related to climate change.  The product of seven years of travel and research, Blood and Earth brings us dramatic stories from the world’s most beautiful and tragic places, the environmental and human-rights hotspots where this crisis is concentrated. But it also tells the stories of some of the most common products we all consume—from computers to shrimp to jewelry—whose origins are found in these same places.”

Simplicity: the Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr. From the Center for Action and Contemplation: ‘” ‘Less is more,’  Richard Rohr tells us, and those who have nothing to protect or prove have a soul that can embrace both the shadow self and the good to receive Christ. This book has continued to resonate with seekers since its original publication.” This book explores St. Francis’s ancient call to the simple life, where joy, not dry theology, helps us build relationships and find peace in ourselves.”

 In the Neighborhood by Peter Lovenheim. Here is a brief synopsis about the book from Peter’s website: “Peter Lovenheim had lived on the same street in suburban Rochester, New York much of his life. But it was only after a brutal murder-suicide rocked the neighborhood that he was struck by a fact of modern life in contemporary American communities: No one really knew anyone else. Thus began Peter’s search to meet and get to know his neighbors. Being inquisitive, he did more than just introduce himself. He asked, ever so politely, if he could sleep over.”

The Book of Unknown Americans” by Cristina Henriquez. Here is a brief synopsis of the book from the author’s website: “Arturo Rivera was the owner of a construction company in Pátzcuaro, México. One day, as his beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, is helping him at a work site, she sustains an injury that casts doubt on whether she’ll ever be the same again. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better. When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panamà, sees Maribel in a Dollar Tree store, it is love at first sight. It’s also the beginning of a friendship between the Rivera and Toro families, whose web of guilt and love and responsibility is at this novel’s core. Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Central and Latin America. Their journeys and their voices will inspire you, surprise you, and break your heart.”

Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz Weber. From the author’s website: “In a time when many have rightly become disillusioned with Christianity, Accidental Saints demonstrates what happens when ordinary people share bread and wine, struggle with scripture together, and tell each other the truth about their real lives. This unforgettable account of their faltering steps toward wholeness will ring true for believer and skeptic alike.”

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Upcoming Virtual Events

"JVC Northwest 101: Service and Community"

Thursday, April 7 | 7:00pm ET / 4:00pm PT
Learn about all that makes a year of service with JVC Northwest unique. We’ll talk about the opportunities available, what intentional community looks like, and dive into our values of social and ecological justice, simple living, and spirituality/reflection. There will also be plenty of time for Q+A. Register here. 

"How to Make Your Application Stand Out"

Wednesday, April 20 | 7:00pm ET / 4:00pm PT
Learn how you can position yourself to be a strong candidate for service with JVC Northwest. With one week left before the April 26 priority deadline, this will also be the perfect time to get a handle on each step of the application, interview, matching, and placement process. Register here. 

Where Are the JVC Northwest Recruiters Going Next?

Check out our upcoming recruitment events below. Don’t see your school or town on the list? Reach out to us at recruiter@jvcnorthwest.org to let us know you’d like us to pay your town a visit! 

Notre Dame | Info Session: Discerning Post Graduate Service | 6:30 PM | COffee House in Geddes Hall

Marquette | Info session (1-2) office hours (2-4) | Career Services Center – Seminar Room