The Allums Book Group

A Contemporary Fiction Discussion Group

The Dallas Institute’s book groups have a long history and long list of contemporary novels read since 1998 that is climbing steadily toward 200 titles. Some, of course, have been more memorable than others, some have made surprising impacts on us, and a small few are perhaps best forgotten. Throughout our many discussions over the years, we have learned much about cultures and characters depicted by authors from around the world, and also about reading itself. True, reading is a solitary activity, but coming together in conversation, even online, is to participate in the joy of sharing ourselves in an atmosphere of civility and generosity. It’s a good place to be.

This course meets at noon on the days listed below.

Food. Because of Covid constraints, alas, no food can be served indoors at these events, until further notice. However, light lunch will be provided at 11:45AM on the Thomas House patio prior to discussions.
Place: Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture (Covid-willing, or online as necessary)
Professor: Dr. Larry Allums
Dates: Sept. 22, Oct. 20, Nov. 17, Dec. 15
Tuition:  $100/class session or  $400 total. Teachers free with membership.


The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

We were much taken with Erdrich’s The Round House in 2013 , and I’m eager to read her most recent, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Like The Round House, it’s set on a Native American reservation, and its plot was inspired by the exploits of Erdrich’s grandfather.


The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This sequel to The Sympathizer, which most if not all of us greatly admired, almost insists on being read because of its celebrated predecessor. Though the reviews have been various, I’m one of many committed to discovering what the author has given us this time.


How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Another incisive and timely novel from within the group of masterful young women writers from Africa or with African origins, this second book by Mbue is set in a fictional African village and examines capitalism and colonialism in a memorable, unanticipated way.


The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan

Flanagan’s 2014 novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, winner of the Booker Prize, has stayed with me ever since we read and discussed it back then. His latest is like The Committed in almost demanding to be read. It doesn’t promise to be a “feel-good” experience, but, then, our group has never insisted on rose-colored glasses.

Date Times Title
Sep 22 Noon The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich, pub. 3/23/21, 464 pp
Oct 20 Noon The Committed, Viet Thanh Nguyen, pub. 3/2/21, 400 pp
Nov 17 Noon How Beautiful We Were, Imbolo Mbue, pub. 3/9/21, 384 pp.
Dec 15 Noon The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, Richard Flanagan, pub. 5/25/21, 288 pp.

These titles are available at our sterling local booksellers, Interabang and Deep Vellum. They can mail copies directly to patrons. Deep Vellum is offering a 15% discount on these titles; please contact Riley Rennhack for more information.



DR. J. LARRY ALLUMS is Executive Director Emeritus of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Dr. Allums earned his Ph.D. in Literature and Political Philosophy from the University of Dallas. He served as Professor of English and Dean of College of Arts at the University of Mobile for more than 20 years.

Looking for something to read? Try a book enjoyed in past discussions! [PDF download]