Nonfiction Book Group

Our nonfiction book group, which was launched in 2018, originally focused on history and social and political life in the Western hemisphere, but now is open to books on any topic of interest to book group members. Books are chosen by participants. All are welcome to join with the hope that participants will impact each other through discussion and community.

The group meets via ZOOM. Meetings are held monthly on Monday evenings at 6pm with discussions lasting 60 to 90 minutes. Meetings are on the fourth Monday of the month. The style of the group is informal with the conversation moving about the group naturally.

Sign up for the monthly e-newsletter or check the library website for dates and selected titles. For more information and to be added to the group’s email list for notices contact Mark Orton at

Book club selections are available to borrow through the library, often in multiple formats including large print, ebook, and e-audio.

The List:  Upcoming

  • July 25, 2022 –  Oral Histories – we will go off book for this month and instead participants will listen to oral histories from the library’s collections – including the Black Legacy Association of Columbia County collection – and the Oral History Summer School’s Community Library of Voice and Sound and discuss both shared and unique listens.
  • June 27, 2022 –  On Juneteenth / Annette Gordon-Reed

The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Texas native.

Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed’s On Juneteenth provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. All too aware of the stories of cowboys, ranchers, and oilmen that have long dominated the lore of the Lone Star State, Gordon-Reed--herself a Texas native and the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s--forges a new and profoundly truthful narrative of her home state, with implications for us all.

  • May 23, 2022 –  Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend / Susan Orlean available as book, large print book, book on CD, ebook, eAudiobook

“He believed the dog was immortal. So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping, powerfully moving account of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon. Orlean, a staff writer at The New Yorker who has been hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post, spent nearly ten years researching and reporting her most captivating book to date: the story of a dog who was born in 1918 and never died.”


The List: Past Selections

  • April 25, 2022 – The Devil in the White City / Erik Larson
  • March 28, 2022 – The secret life of groceries : the dark miracle of the American supermarket / Benjamin Lorr Available as a book, large print, audiobook, and ebook.
  • February 28, 2022 – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot, 2010 Available as a book, large print, audiobook and ebook.
  • January 24, 2022 –  The Monk of Mokha / Dave Eggers
  • December 20, 2021 (NOTE – this is the third Monday not the fourth) – We will repeat the DOCUMENTARYPALOOZA that was so much fun a year ago. What to do? Choose one or more documentaries available from Kanopy (the library’s service), YouTube, Vimeo or any other source of documentaries, watch, then share your thoughts with the group at the meeting. 
  • November 29, 2021 – This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession / Daniel J. Levitin, 2006
  • October 25, 2021 – An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States /Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz. A
  • September 27, 2021 – Talking to strangers : what we should know about the people we don’t know / Malcolm Gladwell
  • August 30, 2021 – History of New York in 27 buildings : the 400-year untold story of an American metropolis / Sam Roberts ; contemporary photography by George Samoladas
  • June 28, 2021 6pm  and Monday July 26, 2021 6pm: Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, 2020.

    For June read Caste through to the end of Chapter 13 (202 pages), then for July read the balance (approximately 195 pages, not including the 55 pages of notes and bibliography).

    At each meeting we will take a bit more detailed look at the book’s arguments section by section since most of us will find both new concepts and new history here.

  • May 24, 2021 6pm: All You Can Ever Know: a memoir by Nicole Chung
  • April 26, 2021 at 6pm – a book – Who really feeds the world? : the failures of agribusiness and the promise of agroecology by Vandana Shiva and a documentary – Seed: The Untold Story- Defending the Future of Food (available via Kanopy)
  • March 27, 2021 at 6pm – Heartland : a memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on earth / Sarah Smarsh
  • February 22, 2021 at 6pm. – Begin Again – James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for our own by EDDIE S. GLAUDE JR.

    “In this powerful and elegant book, Glaude weaves together a biography, a meditation, a literary analysis, and a moral essay on America.…It is at times both loving and angry, challenging and uplifting, and always beautiful. Both Baldwin and this book speak directly to today.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci

    A book presentation and interview with the author from The Free Library of Philadelphia:

    Eddie Glaude, Jr. | Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

  • January 25, 2021 at 6pm – Dolly Parton – each member will read, view, or listen to non-fiction work(s) about Dolly Parton. Some potential titles:
  • December 2020 – Discussion of documentary films – each member “doc talks” a documentary that they have viewed.
  • November 2020 – How we got to now : six innovations that made the modern world by Steven Johnson
  • October 2020 – The Professor and the Madman – a tale of murder, insanity and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester.
  • September 2020 – Cooked- a natural history of transformation by Michael Pollan
  • August 2020 – The Sixth Extinction: an unnatural history by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • July 2020 – The Hidden Lives of Trees: what they feel and how they communicate – discoveries from a secret world by PeterWohlleben (2016).
  • May and June 2020 – Discussion of documentary films – each member “doc talks” a documentary that they have viewed.
  • March and April 2020 – The Gene: an intimate history by Siddhartha Mukherjee

  • February 24, 2020 – Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson

  • January 27, 2020 – Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw. A playlist to listen to many of the songs is here.

  • December 9, 2019 – The Dust Bowl – a documentary by Ken Burns.

  • November 4, 2019 – Diamond Street: The Story of the Little Town with the Big Red Light District by Bruce Hall

  • August and September 2019 – These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore

  • July 2019 – White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

  • June 2019 – No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell Moore
  • May 2019 – The Library Book by Susan Orleans
  • April 2019 – Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken
  • March 2019 – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
  • February 2019 – The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis
  • January 2019 – Part Four of Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • December 2018 – Two Square Miles directed by Barbara Ettinger –   documentary about Hudson and the proposed St. Lawrence Cement plant – available on YouTube –
  • November 2018 – Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • October 2018 – Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  • September 2018 – The island at the center of the world : the epic story of Dutch Manhattan, the forgotten colony that shaped America by Russell Shorto
  • August 2018 – The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú
  • July 2018 – 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
  • June 2018 – Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
  • May 2018 – Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
  • April 2018 – Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
  • March 2018 – The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • February 2018 – no meeting
  • January 2018 – The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson