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, unless changed to avoid holidays. 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

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


  •  April 22, 2024 – How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future by Vaclav Smil

    “An essential analysis of the modern science and technology that makes our twenty-first century lives possible–a scientist’s investigation into what science really does, and does not, accomplish. We have never had so much information at our fingertips and yet most of us don’t know how the world really works. This book explains seven of the most fundamental realities governing
    our survival and prosperity. From energy and food production, through our material world and its globalization, to risks, our environment and its future, How the World Really Works offers a much-needed reality check–because before we can tackle problems effectively, we must understand the facts. In this ambitious and thought-provoking book we see, for example, that globalization isn’t inevitable–the foolishness of allowing 70 per cent of the world’s rubber gloves to be made in just one factory became glaringly obvious in 2020–and that our societies have been steadily increasing their dependence on fossil fuels, such that any promises of decarbonization by 2050 are a fairy tale. For example, each greenhouse-grown supermarket-bought tomato has the equivalent of five tablespoons of diesel embedded in its production, and we have no way of producing steel, cement or plastics at required scales without huge carbon emissions. Ultimately, Smil answers the most profound question of our age: are we irrevocably doomed or is a brighter utopia ahead? Compelling, data-rich and revisionist, this wonderfully broad, interdisciplinary guide finds faults with both extremes. Looking at the world through this quantitative lens reveals hidden truths that change the way we see our past, present and uncertain future”-

Past Selections

  • March 25, 2024 – The Story of Art Without Men / Katy Hessel
  • February 26, 2024 – A Black Women’s History of the United States / Daina Ramey Berry & Kali Nicole Gross
  • January 29, 2024 – The good life: lessons from the world’s longest scientific study of happiness / Robert Waldinger, MD, and Marc Schulz, PhD.
  • December 18, 2023 – DOCUMENTARYPALOOZA (NOTE: this is the third Monday, not the fourth) – 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 27, 2023 – Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas by Jennifer Raff
  • October 23, 2023 – The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
  • September 18, 2023 – A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib
  • August 2023 – on vacation!
  • July 24, 2023 – Explore locally-recorded oral histories. Everyone should listen to Part 2 of Arthur Koweek’s contribution. In Part 2 “Arthur discusses projects under the Urban Renewal Agency and their influence on the city of Hudson.” Then find some history that interests you and be ready to share with the group.
  • June 26, 2023 – The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal about Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power /  Deirdre Mask
  • No meeting in May, 2023
  • April 24, 2023 – Beautiful Country / Qian Julie Wang
  • March 27, 2023 – The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family / Kerri K. Greenidge
  • February 27, 2023 – All that She Carried / Tiya Miles
  • January 23, 2023 – How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy /  Jenny Odell, 2019   
  • December 19, 2022 – (NOTE – this is the third Monday not the fourth)DOCUMENTARYPALOOZA – 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 28, 2022 – A Woman of No Importance : The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purcell
  • No meeting in October 24, 2022
  • September 26, 2022 – Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants / Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • July 25, 2022 – Oral Histories from the library’s collection, including the Black Legacy Association of Columbia County collection, and Oral History Summer School’s Community Library of Voice and Sound collection
  • June 27, 2022 – On Juneteenth / Annette Gordon-Reed
  • May 23, 2022 – Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend / Susan Orlean
  • 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
  • February 28, 2022 – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot, 2010
  • January 24, 2022 – The Monk of Mokha / Dave Eggers
  • December 20, 2021 – DOCUMENTARYPALOOZA – 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.
  • 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.
  • January 25, 2021 at 6pm – Dolly Parton – each member will read, view, or listen to non-fiction work(s) about Dolly Parton
  • 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