When Book Clubs Attack: The Localist Goes to Book Group

Last night, I was invited to speak to a book club about The Localist, and I was scared; I didn’t know what to expect from being locked in a room with people ready to question me about the specifics of my book. (They didn’t actually lock me in a room, but I was specifically told not to climb out of a window, which was more than a little bit troubling.)


I’m happy to report that, although there was a decent amount of yelling, no one threw food at me (partly because the food — from Nabeel’s and Organic Harvest — was good, and nobody wanted to waste it). But that doesn’t mean it was easy; the conversation was incredibly robust, and the questions and opinions about localism kept coming for almost four hours. These book clubbers came prepared with ideas, challenges, and even print-outs about where Amazon’s money goes.


The group was made up of both serious conservatives and dedicated liberals, and one of the best compliments they gave me about the book is that they all found a way to feel passionately about localism no matter their political choices. I’m happy that message came through because I really believe that, whether our focus is building a stronger country or helping the poor, being more intentional about our purchasing choices helps us do that by building our communities and our economies.


The Localist speaks to people of different political parties not because it’s wishy-washy — I take a very clear stand about supporting independent business. But buying locally doesn’t belong to one party or another because buying locally is essentially voting with your money every day, and what you do with that vote is up to you.


We need more of this kind of political discourse in our country — the kind that happens at the dinner table. Because it’s harder to pretend that anyone who disagrees with you is a villain when the person you’re arguing with is also a close friend. It’s important to look at big political issues from more than one side, and discussing them with friends (and, let’s face it — discussing them over wine) helps us to do that.


When politicians and talking heads turn complex political issues into combative slogans and simplistic talking points, they distort the issues and do a huge disservice to our country. Just like I think we can change America’s economy by buying differently, I think we can change the political conversation in our country by having more complex, difficult conversations with the people we care about and also disagree with. Last night, I was honored to be a part of that conversation — and I’m also really glad they didn’t throw the food.

Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

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