This site is a blog for The Austin Athenaeum. We are a men’s reading group that meets monthly at some local Austin restaurant. Our venue has a bad habit of changing in the last few years due to forces of civic development, corporate greed, and the need of just the right combination of food, outdoor seating, and quietude.
Our group has been meeting for almost 18 years as of November 2017. We read mostly 19th and 20th century classic fiction, although we do also read occasional contemporary books of both fiction and non-fiction. And with even less frequency we read books from more distant history such as Don Quixote, Shakespeare, Boethius, Thucydides, Suetonius etc. You can find a complete list of the books we’ve read in the left sidebar (full screen computer required to view sidebar. Cell phones will not see it.)
The other items in the left sidebar include the short essays written by members regarding a particular month’s selection. Books are selected by vote. Each member may propose a book or pass. At voting time, every one gets two votes. We have had to have tie-breaker votes, and a few times the tie-breaker vote was tied, and a coin toss made the decision.
The vote winner normally (although it is technically not required) writes and reads aloud an essay about the book they proposed. Those who submit their essays to this blogmaster will have their essays posted in the left column.
And yes, I did say men’s group. Years ago we wrestled with the question whether to allow women to attend. We decided that although we all know many women of our acquaintance who are mentally, socially, intellectually and otherwise equal to our group, we would remain a men-only group.
Let the reason be attributed to our own frailty and selfishness rather than to any deficiency in women. The stance is borne of a charitable disposition, honor, and the leftovers among some of an upbringing that inculcated respect for women. We are selfish. We know ourselves too well and fear that the sacred joie de vivre of our beloved meetings would be diminished in the hearts of many with the presence of women regardless of how doughty and erudite she might be.
We drink beer and sometimes whiskey. Smoking of all forms of tobacco is welcomed. Most curse in the most ribald and sometimes unhinged language completely without inhibition. We recognize that, for many of us, Athenaeum is the only context in our lives that we can do so over the topic of books, and there is near unanimity of opinion that the uniformity of sex is a leading catalyst in the unfettered fellowship we enjoy.
Finally, we have grown to a point that we are not able to welcome new members although this is not yet an official position. We do encourage the multiplication of reading groups in Austin and around the country, and to that end we provide a document describing our procedures that have been hammered out over the years until they have arrived at perfection. These are also located in the left sidebar.