Non-Fiction Book Group

Focused on history and social and political life in the Western hemisphere, books are chosen by participants to explore issues that are topical today. All are welcome to join with the hope that participants will impact each other through discussion and community.

Meetings are held monthly, generally on Monday evenings at 6pm. 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

Typically discussions last for 60 to 90 minutes. The style of the group is informal with the conversation moving about the group naturally.

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

The List:  Upcoming and Past Book Group Selections

  • November 2020 – How we got to now : six innovations that made the modern world by Steven Johnson – meeting Monday 11/30/2020 6pm via Zoom.
    Steven Johnson explores the history of innovation over centuries, tracing facets of modern life (refrigeration, clocks, and eyeglass lenses, to name a few) from their creation by hobbyists, amateurs, and entrepreneurs to their unintended historical consequences.” (NYTimes)
  • October 2020 – The Professor and the Madman – a tale of murder, insanity and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester.- meeting Monday October 10/26/2020 6pm via Zoom
  • September 2020 – Cooked- a natural history of transformation by Michael Pollan – meeting Monday 9/21/2020 6pm via Zoom
    “In Cooked, Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements–fire, water, air, and earth–to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook”– Provided by publisher.
  • 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 Peter
    Wohlleben (2016).  Available as a book from the library and ebook and audiobook through the library’s Hoopla app online. Meeting will be held via Zoom on Monday July 27, 2020 at 6pm.
  • June 2020 – we had so much fun with the May discussions that we will repeat the viewing and discussion of documentaries. The May documentaries ranged from Sugar Coated about the spread of sugar in our diet to a biography of Jane Fonda, and a documentary on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Pick something that appeals to you. You aren’t limited to Kanopy as a source. YouTube, Vimeo and other platforms have lots to offer. Just be ready to explain what attracted you to the topic, a brief summary and highlights from your perspective. Generally about 5-10 minutes of discussion per documentary. Meeting will be Monday June 29, 2020 6pm. Zoom invite will come via email.
  • May 2020 – In light of the pandemic and difficulties getting our hands on books, we will each watch a documentary of your choice. Pick a documentary video from the selection on Kanopy to discuss. Kanopy has nearly 5,600 to choose from.Download the directions here >>>>.
  • March and April 2020 Book
    • The Gene: an intimate history by Siddhartha Mukherjee
      • for Monday March 30, 2020 read up to Part Four (approx. 240 pages) (Canceled due to coronavirus)
      • for Monday April 27, 2020 read the whole (approx. 250 pages)
At the April 27 meeting (6pm) we will also watch a special 30 minute video screening designed for discussion groups of PBS’s KEN BURNS PRESENTS THE GENE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY

Here are two lengthy interviews with Mukherjee:

The Gene: Unlocking the Human Code (October 2016) –

The Future of Humans: Gene Editing & the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution (January 2018) –

NOTE: The April 27th meeting will be held via Zoom conference. If you are already on the group’s email list you will receive an invitation. Otherwise, email to be added to the list and receive an invitation.

  • December 9, 2019 – Monday 6pm.
  • November 4, 2019 – Monday 6pm.
    • Diamond Street: The Story of the Little Town with the Big Red Light District by Bruce Hall
  • September 2019
    • — 2nd half of These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore
  • August 2019
    • — 1st half of 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 –   It is 94 minutes long.
  • 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