Photo courtesy City of Burlington
When Ian Baltutis was campaigning door-to-door to become the mayor of Burlington, residents raised issues important to them. Invariably, someone would mention a book relating to the topic of his or her discussion.
Baltutis kept a running list so he could read the books when he had time. After becoming mayor in 2015, he launched the Mayor's Book Club so residents could read a selected non-fiction book and talk about how it relates to life in Burlington.
The books can be checked out from the Alamance County Public Library. Baltutis — who was re-elected in 2017 — leads the monthly discussions, hosting both a lunchtime session (which rotates among different city restaurants) and an evening gathering at a local brew pub.
When the club read $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, residents were joined by staff and volunteers from the local food pantry and homeless center.
An ex-convict from a nearby residential program took part in the club's discussion of Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, a book about the prison system. With Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, by journalist Sam Quinones, the city's police chief and a drug enforcement officer attended.
For the discussion about The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers, author Mark Hatch joined the conversation via Skype.
Discussions last about an hour, with participants usually staying on to socialize. In addition to the book list Baltutis accrued from the campaign trail, reading choices come from members of the community and library staff. Fittingly, Mayor Baltutis gets the final vote on what Burlington's book club participants will read.
The Reading List
In addition to the five titles noted in the photo caption and text above, Mayor Ian Baltutis's book club in Burlington, North Carolina, has read and discussed:
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Content by P.M. Forni
- Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy by Stephen S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong
- Dead Men Ruling: How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future
by C. Eugene Steuerle
- Democratizing Innovation by Eric von Hippel
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
- Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places by Peter Kageyama
- Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City by Brad Feld
- The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart by Bill Bishop
- The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economies by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley
- The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti
- The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey
- Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America's Sorted-Out Cities by Mindy Thompson Fullilove
- Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck
This article is adapted from the "Community Engagement" chapter of the AARP book Where We Live: Communities for All Ages — 100+ Inspiring Ideas From America’s Community Leaders. Download or order your free copy.
Reported by Sally Abrahms | Page published November 2017