Interested in joining the Progressive Book Club? Find out more here.

“Books have always played a pivotal role in our nation’s history,changing America in remarkable ways. Imagine the American Revolutionwithout Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Where would the abolitionistmovement have been without Uncle Tom’s Cabin? How would the socialreforms of the Progressive Era ever have been enacted without UptonSinclair’s The Jungle? What would be the condition of the naturalenvironment today if Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had never beenpublished?”

This strong articulation of the power of books–and the ideas theybring to our politics and culture–comes from the mission statement forthe newest organization in the progressive firmament, the ProgressiveBook Club (PBC). At this defining moment in our nation’s history–a time which demands we examine complex issues from new perspectives, ask toughquestions and press for real change–it’s very good news that a venturelike PBC, dedicated, like The Nation, to enriching our political andcultural conversation and debate, launches today.

As editor and publisher of a magazine that has taken ideas seriously for143 years, I’m very pleased to be a part of its Editorial Board, along with Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Barbara Kingsolver, Hendrik Hertzberg, Edwidge Danticat, Mark Danner, John Podesta, Andy Stern, Bill McKibben, Robert Scheer, Jeff Faux, Eric Foner, Markos Moulitsas Zuníga, Amy Wilentz, Joan Bingham, Lewis Lapham and others.

I believe that the return of ideas to our politics is criticalas we rebuild and strengthen our democracy. It’s also a vital time toenrich the marketplace of ideas and challenge a media universe which toooften trivializes and sensationalizes politics.

“As Americans become increasingly involved with the political processand concerned about our nation’s direction, the progressive movement isat a critical crossroads,” said Elizabeth Wagley, Progressive Book Clubfounder and CEO. “We’ve created an innovative platform that encouragespeople to explore important issues and engage in debate, whileempowering them to learn more–and do more–to make a difference.”

Joining PBC is simple. Members select three books for $1 and agree to buy four morebooks within two years, at 10 percent to 40 percent off list prices. Some titles will be offered for as much as 70 percent to 80 percent off list prices over the course of a membership. Each month there will be new titles covering a range of topics, along with a monthly “PBC Pick” selection from the EditorialBoard. To help deepen readers’ understanding of the issues, PBC willalso provide content in the form of videos, audio files, interviews,additional reading recommendations, and offline programming.

Members of the Editorial Board can suggest classics–such as TomPaine’s Common Sense and Michael Harrington’s The Other America. (Nextmonth, I plan to nominate John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society, as eloquent an articulation of our mixed economy as one could everread.) But the focus will be on current books, and also books fromsmall pressesthat might otherwise not get the attention they deserve. In this waythe PBC will promote cutting edge thinking and also the retrieval ofideas from the past which can inform our present. As we approach themost important election in my lifetime, the PBC and its books have avital role to play in this regard–along with magazines, opinionjournals, and other forums for thinkers and intelligent debate.

PBC expects to build a substantial membership base from a diverse poolof 63 million self-identified socially responsible consumers and 72million-plus registered Democratic voters. In addition to The Nation,more than two dozen of the nation’s leading progressive organizationshave signed on as Alliance Partners to help extend the PBC’s reach and mobilize the broader community,including Center for American Progress, Campaign for America’s Future,Media Matters, Mother Jones, the Service Employees International Union,and DailyKos.com. Members will have the opportunity to give backwith every purchase, donating $2 to a progressive organization of their choice.

The Conservative Book Club began more than forty years ago, and theconservative movement has long used books and book clubs to promotetheir ideas. The Progressive Book Club was established to help restorebalance to American discourse by bringing progressive voices, ideas, andissues to the forefront of the national debate. It offers a strongsocial networking platform–members can learn, debate, interact, andexchange ideas through PBC’s vibrant online community. Offline therewill be opportunities to interact with authors, progressive opinionleaders and fellow members at local events, readings and bookdiscussions.

In the world of politics today where there is so much emphasis onscoring points and the machinations of a 36/7 War Room, it seems a goodtime to rededicate ourselves to the notion that ideas have power andconsequence, and that the grassroots can use those ideas to createchange.