Skip to Main Content

Book Club Kits: The Argonauts

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

Cover Image

Check Availability

To request this kit, click link above.

Alamance County Public Libraries

Alamance County Public Libraries provide free and open access to lifelong learning, resources for everyday living, and reading for pleasure in a welcoming environment.  Our collections, services and programs enhance the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities. Contact the Library webmaster.

Alamance County Public Libraries operates as a Department of Alamance County Government.  Visit the Alamance County Website at

Book Summary

An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of auto theory offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the authors relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelsons account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, is an intimate portrayal of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.Writing in the spirit of public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson binds her personal experience to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. Nelsons insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry of this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.

Discussion Questions

  1. For the person who chose this book: What made you want to read it?  What made you suggest it to the group for discussion? Did it live up to your expectations? Why or why not?


  1. What did you know about the subject prior to reading this book? Did you learn anything new about this person? If you knew of the subject before, did anything you read change your opinion?


  1. What is the subject's most admirable quality? Is this someone you would want to know or have known?


  1. What did you find to be the most interesting events in this book? What, if anything, surprised you?


  1. If this person impacted history, discuss what may have been different without his or her presence.


  1. What did you learn about the time period in which the book is set that you did not previously know? Discuss the time period in history that each person in the group enjoys reading about most, and why?


  1. Has reading this book inspired you to do further research on the subject and the time period discussed


  1. Compare this book to others your group has read. Is it similar to any of them? Did you like it more or less than other books you've read? What do you think will be your lasting impression of the book as a whole? How about the subject specifically?


  1. What did you like or dislike about the book that hasn't been discussed already? Were you glad you read this book? Would you recommend it to a friend? Do you want to read more works by this author or more about the book's subject?


Keep the following in mind:

Questions that allow your members to express their opinions work better than those that simply have them pull answers from the book. Ask your group to back up their comments with specific examples from the story. Sometimes it might even help to play devil's advocate with the group. Take a stance that's different from the consensus of the group (if there is one) and force the members of your group to defend their opinions of the book.

Another option is to go through the book pointing out scenes or passages that were especially touching/memorable/interesting to you, and then asking the group what their reaction to these selections are. And don't be afraid to let the discussion go where it will --- if one particular aspect of the book really captures your group member's attention, allow them to stay on this theme, rather than rushing them through all the questions you have prepared.

About the Author

Maggie Nelson is the author of The Argonauts, as well as an American poet, art critic, lyric essayist and nonfiction author of books such as The Red Parts: A Memoir, The Art of Cruelty, Bluets, and Jane: A Murder. The Art of Cruelty was a 2011 Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction. Jane: A Murder was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir.

Nelson has taught at the Graduate Writing Program of the New School, Wesleyan University, and the School of Art and Design at Pratt Institute; she currently teaches in the CalArts MFA writing program. She was awarded an Arts Writers grant in 2007 from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation. In 2011, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry.