Open Book / Open Mind is a series of live, interactive conversations featuring top authors and thinkers on the important issues of our time. The series is curated by the Montclair Public Library and its foundation board members. The talks are free and open to the public, thanks to the generosity of our funders and the speakers who donate their time. Open Book / Open Mind Conversations take place at the Montclair Public Library (150 seats) and satellite venues, such as Buzz Aldrin Middle School (700 seats). We do a social media campaign and local press outreach for each talk (Montclair Times, Baristanet.com, Montclair Local, The Star Ledger, etc.). OB/OM Conversations are consistently well-attended. Books are sold by our wonderful local bookstore, Watchung Booksellers. Videos of the conversations can be viewed on the Multimedia section on this site and are rebroadcast on Montclair TV34 on Fridays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 10:00 AM.
Our Mission: Inspiration & Education for Everyone
Open Book / Open Mind’s purpose is an extension of the Montclair Public Library’s mission to provide lifelong learning to the residents of Montclair and its surroundings. We are passionate about eradicating barriers to education. Montclair is an economically and racially diverse town saturated with journalists, publishers, and writers. With these talks, the library seeks to deepen the public’s understanding of important issues like civil rights, economic justice, the environment, and education, and to provide a home for the Montclair literary community. The magic of the talks is in the pairings of speakers, and the interaction with the audience. The series is open to writers of every genre. We believe in the potential for words and ideas to change lives.
Please contact Programming Librarian Ariel Zeitlin for more information.
- May 3 at 4 pm. New York Times bestselling author Ada Calhoun will discuss her newest book Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis with Maureen Connolly, editor-in-chief of Everyday Health. This program will be online. Please register here.
- June 7 at 4 pm. New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman will be in conversation with activist, attorney, and former U.S. Treasury official Jim Johnson, about Jesse’s book, Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College. Register here. If the Governors executive order on public gatherings has been lifted, the event will take place in person in our auditorium.
2020 Authors – The Sixth Year
- January 12 – Author Taffy Brodesser-Akner, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, will discuss her debut novel, Fleishman Is In Trouble, with conversation partner, Jake Silverstein, Editor in Chief of The New York Times Magazine.
- January 26 – Author Andrew Marantz, staff writer for The New Yorker, will discuss is book Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation. Marantz embedded himself with alt-right propagandists, who have become experts at using social media to advance their agenda. He also spent time with the social-media entrepreneurs who made this possible.
- February 9 – In her book Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, Dr. Imani Perry, a professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, explores the terror, grace, and beauty of coming of age as a Black person in contemporary America and what it means to parent our children in a persistently unjust world. She will be in conversation with author Emily Raboteau.
- February 23 – Montclair native and Time magazine correspondent Charlotte Alter highlights the next generation of political leaders and the issues that drive them in her debut book, The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America.
- March 1 – Acclaimed New York Times columnist Gail Collins illustrates the ways in which age is an arbitrary concept that has swung back and forth over the centuries in her book, No Stopping Us Now: A History of Older Women in America. She will be in conversation with author Dale Russakoff.
2019 Authors – The Fifth Year
Sponsored by The Montclair Foundation and Investors Foundation
- February 6 – Author Chris Wilson will talk about his experiences being incarcerated and The Master Plan, the road map to life outside of prison that he developed to gain his freedom. Montclair’s Charles Rosen, founder of New Ark Farms, which employs formerly incarcerated workers will join Chris in conversation.
- February 10 – Authors Benilde Little, Veronica Chambers, & Ylonda Gault Caviness contributed essays to The Meaning of Michelle:16 Writers on the Iconic First lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own and will explore Mrs. Obama’s legacy in America.
- March 21 – Lidia Bastianich, beloved PBS series star and chef, details her personal history of being an immigrant and the role of cooking in her life in her book My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family and Food in conversation with Montclair based food writer and trained chef Marissa Rothkopf Bates.
- April 10 – International best-selling author Julia Alvarez will discuss her many novels including In The Time of the Butterflies with journalist and NYU professor Yvonne Latty.
- May 3 – Technology scholar Edward Tenner dives deep into how efficient we actually are in our modern world with his book The Efficiency Paradox, and New York Times Tech journalist Steve Lohr.
- June 2 – New York Times writer David Itzkoff will discuss the impact that struggles with mental illness played in the life of comedic superstar Robin Williams in his book Robin, with Rolling Stones Magazine’s chief TV critic Alan Sepinwall. This event will be part of the week-long “BOUNCE: A Festival of Optimism and Resilience” mental health and wellness program in Montclair.
- Sept. 15th – Marcy Dermansky, author of The Red Car, Twins and Bad Marie, will discuss her latest book Very Nice, with fellow Montclair writer, Kate Tuttle, former president of the National Book Critics Circle.
- October 20th – Dan Barry and Matt Purdy of The New York Times will discuss the rich photos and essays in THIS LAND: America, Lost and Found.
- November 3rd – Daniel Okrent will explain the present and historical implications in THE GUARDED GATE: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America, in conversation with Montclair’s Jonathan Alter, author, columnist, TV analyst, and lecturer.
- November 7th – B. A. Shapiro and Caroline Leavitt will talk about creating fiction and The Collector’s Apprentice in Leir Hall at Montclair Art Museum.
- November 22nd – Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey will be in conversation with NY Times colleague Matt Purdy to reveal She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement.
2018 Authors – The Fourth Year
Sponsored by The Montclair Foundation and Investors Foundation
- January 28 – Two rising stars of the literary world, Garth Hallberg author of City On Fire, and Estep Nagy author of We Shall All Not Sleep, will be in conversation on the art of writing fiction, particularly about fictional families.
- February 4 – Lawrence O’Donnell, host of The Last Word on MSNBC and author of Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics, will discuss the impact of this historic election with Tom Johnson, award-winning executive news editor and producer of Showtime’s documentary series The Circus: Inside the Biggest Story on Earth.
- February 25 – Joanne Lipman, former Chief Content Officer of Gannett and Editor in Chief of USA Today, informs how men can join with women to help close the gender gap in the post-Weinstein era in her new book That’s What She Said, What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together. She will be in conversation with Edward Felsenthal, Editor-in-Chief of Time Magazine.
- March 2nd – Co-authors Rachel L. Swarns and Darcy Eveleigh will reveal the fascinating stories behind the stunning unearthed photos in “Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archive. National Editor of The New York Times Marc Lacey will moderate the discussion.
- April 29th – Cheo Hodari Coker, Executive Producer, Creator, and Head Writer of the Netflix TV show Luke Cage in conversation with the show’s producer Gail Barringer about “The Power of a Black Superhero” and the challenges of writing drama for a television series. Actors from the series Gail Pittman and Sean Ringgold will join them.
- May 29th – Best-selling author Liza Mundy will discuss women’s undervalued role in technology and history in Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II with Dr. Jessica Restaino, Director of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Montclair State University.
- September 16th – Nathan Englander, Pulitzer finalist and best-selling author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, will discuss his new political thriller Dinner at the Center of the Earth with director of the Creative Writing Program and professor of English at Montclair State University, David Galef, author of My Date with Neanderthal Woman.
- October 20 – Best-selling author Tayari Jones returns to share thoughts on incarceration inequities, racism and the ties of love and loyalty woven in her smash hit An American Marriage. She will be in conversation with historian and artist Dr. Nell Irvin Painter, author of Old in Art School and Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. The event will be held at Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair.
- November 1 – Authors B.A. Shapiro and Caroline Leavitt in conversation about The Collector’s Apprentice, art, and inspiration. The event will be held at Montclair Art Museum during First Thursday programming. (Rescheduled to Nov. 2019)
- November 11 – Writer Chip McGrath, the esteemed former Editor of The New York Times Book Review section, will moderate a discussion with fellow book reviewers Dwight Garner of The New York Times and Joan Acocella of The New Yorker.
2017 Authors – The Third Year
Sponsored by Susan and Thomas Dunn, The Montclair Foundation and Investors Foundation
- January 8 – Jonathan Alter, journalist and author of three best-selling books, former columnist and senior editor of Newsweek, Stephen Engleberg, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, in conversation with Tom Johnson of Bloomberg Politics predict what to expect from the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency.
- February 24 – Christina Baker Kline returns to OB /OM to discuss her new novel, A Piece of the World, revealing the mysterious muse behind Andrew Wyeth’s masterpiece Christina’s World with Caroline Leavitt, best-selling author of Cruel Beautiful World and ten other novels.
- March 23 – Mark Kurlansky, author of New York Times Best-Sellers Cod, Salt, 1968, and Food of a Younger Land will discuss his new book Havana: A Subtropical Delirium and Cuba’s cultural bright and dark spots with Alexis Romay, Cuban born author of the novels “La apertura cubana” (The Cuban Opening) and “Salidas de emergencia” (Emergency Exits).
- April 30- Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News launches her new book, An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back, and discusses the hidden truths behind America’s healthcare system and industries with former Chief Health and Medical Editor at ABC News Richard E. Besser, M.D.
- May 9- Best-selling author and international makeup mogul Bobbi Brown debuts her new book Bobbi Brown’s Beauty From The Inside Out and will be in conversation with Kristen Dollard, brand director and digital editor for Yoga Journal about make up, wellness and confidence.
- May 19- “Surveillance Theatre” a live performance piece inspired by the young adult novel Watchedby Marina Budhos about modern day police surveillance in a Queens, NY Muslim community. Marina will be in conversation about the current US climate for American Muslims with Arun Venugopal, reporter for WNYC and NPR.
- June 16 – Jacqueline Woodson, Poet and Newberry and National Book Award winning children’s author (Brown Girl Dreaming, Miracle’s Boys) will discuss her adult novel, Another Brooklyn, with Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow, Leaving Atlanta and The Telling.
- September 17 – Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist at The New York Times and author of The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics will be in conversation about the current state of political affairs with The New York Times Op-Ed columnist and former editor of the Editorial page Andrew Rosenthal.
- October 1 – Floyd Abrams, Senior Counsel in Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP’s litigation practice group, has a notable national trial and appellate practice and extensive experience in high-visibility matters such as First Amendment, securities litigation, intellectual property, public policy and regulatory issues. He will be in conversation about his new book, The Soul of the First Amendment, with Vincent Blasi, the Corliss Lamont Professor of Civil Liberties at Columbia Law School, about constitutional law, civil liberties, and the First Amendment in 2017.
- October 13 – NBC news correspondent Katy Tur discusses her unique and sometimes frightening experience covering the 2016 presidential campaign in her new book Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. She will be in conversation with award-winning executive news editor Tom Johnson.
- November 8 – Isabel Allende, one of the world’s most popular authors of such books as The House of the Spirits, Of Love and Shadows, Paula, and My Invented Country, will debut her new novel In the Midst of Winter, and be in conversation with best-selling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World Christina Baker Kline.
2016 Authors – The Second Year
Sponsored by Susan and Thomas Dunn
- Feb 11 – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and NYT Kabul Bureau Chief Rod Nordland discussed The Lovers: Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet with Montclair’s Marc Lacey, NYT Weekend Editor and a former foreign editor.
- March 6 – Khalil Gibran Muhammad discusses the subject of his book, The Condemnation of Blackness with David Troutt, founder and director of Rutgers Center on Law in Metropolitan Equity, and the acclaimed author of The Price of Paradise.
- April 28 – Anna Quindlen discusses her newest novel Miller’s Valley with Elizabeth Egan, books editor for Glamour, journalist, author of the novel A Window Opens. This will be the first event the library hosts at Buzz Aldrin Middle School, a 700-seat venue.
- May 22 – Michael Waldman, President of NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, will discuss his new book “The Fight to Vote,” the story of the struggle to uphold our most fundamental democratic ideals with Elise Boddie, an expert on civil rights and professor at Rutgers Law School.
- September 18 – Reporting on Election 2016- Four New York Times journalists — political reporters Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns, and editors Matthew Purdy and David Halbfinger — discuss the challenges of covering this most unusual presidential campaign.
- October 15 – Alan Cumming is a genuine triple-threat as an acclaimed stage, television, and film star. With Montclair native and Executive Director and Program Director for CUNY Graduate Center’s Martin E. Segal Theatre Frank Hentschker, Cumming discusses his career and his new book, You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams, full of personal photos, real-life stories of louche late-night parties, backstage anecdotes, and memories of loves and friends.
- December 4, Leslie Bennetts journalist and author of Last Girl Before Freeway discusses the lives, loves and liberation of Joan Rivers with journalist and news editor Mary Alice Williams.
2015 Authors – Inaugural Season
Sponsored by Diana Lunin
- January 9 – Bestselling hometown novelists Christina Baker Kline, author of “Orphan Train” and Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves.
- March 22 – Frank Bruni, author and NY Times columnist, spoke with essayist Devon Corneal about his new book Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to College Admissions Mania.
- May 31- Author and NY Times columnist Charles Blow in conversation with James Johnson shared his personal journey through his memoir Fire Shut Up In My Bones.
- September 27 – Dale Russakoff author of The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? Interviewed by NY Times reporter Kate Zernike about the pitfalls and promises of education reform.
- October 18 – Elizabeth Alexander, best known as the poet who read Praise Song for the Day at President Obama’s first inauguration, discussed her first memoir, The Light of the World, with her friend, Montclair’s James Johnson.
- December 6 – David Levithan and E.R. Frank discussed the edge of Y.A. fiction with Kristen Kemp, Parents’ magazine book columnist and YA author.