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BSC’s BookTalk series marks 20 years with a minimalist theme

Published: Jan 02 2019
Bismarck State College’s 20th BookTalk at BSC series begins Sunday, Jan. 6, with a community discussion on “Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom” by Ken Ilgunas. Dr. Kimberly Crowley, BSC associate professor of English, leads the discussion.
This first of three discussions on selected Sundays in 2019 runs from 1 to 3 p.m. in room 204 in the BSC library at 1400 Schafer Street.
BookTalk at BSC 2019 will explore the theme, “Off the Grid,” with two more books, “The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” by Michael Finkel on Feb. 3, and “The Mosquito Coast: a Novel” by Paul Theroux on March 3.
“Many of people long for a simpler life. Some literally want to go off the grid and live without modern conveniences such as electricity and indoor plumbing. For others, going off the grid is about focusing on what’s important – relationships, experiences and making memories versus accumulating stuff,” says Marlene Anderson, BSC director of library services and BookTalk coordinator.
The January BookTalk selection “Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom” is a frank and witty memoir in which author Ken Ilgunas lays bare the existential terror of graduating from the University of Buffalo with $32,000 of student debt. He set himself an ambitious mission: get out of debt as quickly as possible. Inspired by the frugality and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau, Ilgunas undertook a three-year transcontinental journey, working in Alaska as a tour guide, a garbage picker and a night cook to pay off his student loans before hitchhiking home to New York. Debt-free, he enrolled in a master's program at Duke University, determined not to borrow against his future again.
Ilgunas used the last of his savings to buy himself a used Econoline van and outfitted it as his new dorm. The van, stationed in a campus parking lot, would be more than an adventure – it would be his very own "Walden on Wheels." Freezing winters, near-discovery by campus police and the constant challenge of living in a confined space would test Ilgunas's limits and resolve in the two years that followed. What had begun as a simple mission would become an enlightening and life-changing social experiment.
Books are available at local libraries and booksellers. Discussions are free and open to all. For more information, call 224-5450 or visit
The annual BookTalk at BSC series is funded by the BSC Library and a grant from the BSC Foundation.