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What book or books would you select for your perfect book club, and who would you invite for the discussion? In honor of Earth Day, we asked Steve Stelzer, Program Director of the City of Houston’s Green Building Resource Center (GBRC) and veteran book club organizer, this question.


I’m passionate about the environment. It started with my days as a Boy Scout developing a love of nature in the Adirondacks. I became an architect and later a LEED Accredited Professional with the US Green Building Council, which led to my job with the City of Houston in 2007. I’m a true believer that any conversation or seminar’s potential to change people’s minds pales in comparison to what they would get from a book.


People have to commit their time to a book, which is finely crafted with well-sequenced arguments and can include visual aids. Not to mention that reading improves brain health. I started making business-card-sized booklists in 2003, have used books in seminars and presentations, and I have a current booklist on the GBRC website and a Facebook Page called the Houston Green Book Discussion Group.


Book clubs have been a wonderful study of human nature for me. I started the Blind Men and the Elephant book club in 2009 and held it in the original GBRC in Midtown. I started another one at the Houston Permitting Center in 2012, and later I partnered with Houston Public Library (HPL) for a lunchtime book club. I found some people would be “too busy” to read the books, and still come to the meeting just to hear what the others had to say about them, which shocked me. My lesson is that groups are temporary, and that people come and go, like life, and some people are drawn to communities of like-minded people.


My three favorite books to recommend are The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard, Saving Us by Katherine Hayhoe, and Regeneration by Paul Hawken. These authors are my climate heroes. Annie Leonard is the leader of Greenpeace. Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe helped Houston develop our Climate Action Plan; her book masterfully deals with communication (and miscommunication) about the climate. Paul Hawken’s books are pillars of sustainability. This one talks about how industry can accomplish its goals in a way that regenerates planetary ecosystems.


My ideal book club members would be Rachel Carson, Al Gore, Malcolm Gladwell, Erin Brockovich, Don Miguel Ruiz, and Van Jones. Rachel started the modern environmental movement with her book Silent Spring. Thanks to her, we have the EPA. I’ve read all Al Gore’s books; his 1992 Earth in the Balance got me going, and The Assault on Reason pushed me towards thinking more about our political system. Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point continues to give me hope that we could collectively improve society and the planet. Erin Brockovich’s Superman’s Not Coming did not disappoint, detailing the multitude of bad decisions leading to water pollution nightmares, including Flint, Michigan. Don Miguel Ruiz of The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement opened my eyes with fantastic metaphors. And finally, Van Jones lives up to his environmental and social justice rock star reputation with Beyond the Messy Truth. His viewpoint as a southern Black man and experience in the White House would enhance conversation.


I imagine a library in heaven, where these authors would talk about their books and their experiences, and I expect the camaraderie would be exquisite. I’d want people from my book clubs over the years to be a part of the discussion, as well. Hopefully I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with joy and could actually join in, because in heaven I would have perfect recall.


Houston Public Library (HPL) is excited to announce the reopening of the Eleanor Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library on Monday, April 15, 2024. Operating hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., marking a significant milestone in the City’s commitment to serving the community.


A mini-event will kick off the festivities starting at 10 a.m. and include brief remarks from city officials followed by a storytime, craft time, 120th-anniversary limited-edition card sign-up, and book giveaways. 


While specific areas will be restricted to the public for safety reasons, reopening services will include a range of resources and amenities. Customers will have access to a collection of books, e-resources, engaging programs, a meeting space, computers, print services, and outdoor Wi-Fi.


The Freed-Montrose Library temporarily closed last month because of facility safety concerns. Following the closure, Mayor John Whitmire asked members of the library administration to meet with stakeholders and create a plan to safely reopen the building and welcome back the public to a beloved space for learning, discovery and cultural enrichment.


After careful consideration and invaluable customer feedback, the operations were extended at the Freed-Montrose Library, reaffirming HPL's dedication to providing continued access to the library's invaluable resources and services. 


Nestled in the heart of the vibrant Montrose community, Freed-Montrose has been a cherished institution and hub for learning, exploration, and community engagement for years. 


According to the City's General Services Department, a specific date for the grand opening of the new library at 1001 California Street will be determined after substantial completion of the project’s construction.


Don't miss this interview with Manager Sylvia Espinosa about Houston Public Library's 120th birthday and legacy on City Savvy, the monthly newsletter for City of Houston Employees. 

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