Love nonfiction? Join our new nonfiction book club! Copies will be available for checkout at either library location. Meetings are held the 1st Tuesday of the month at 6:30 pm at our branch library on Eastgate Dr.

Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (12/01/2020): This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

Whether you load your iPod with Bach or Bono, music has a significant role in your life—even if you never realized it. Why does music evoke such powerful moods? The answers are at last becoming clear, thanks to revolutionary neuroscience and the emerging field of evolutionary psychology. Both a cutting-edge study and a tribute to the beauty of music itself, This Is Your Brain on Music unravels a host of mysteries that affect everything from pop culture to our understanding of human nature, including:

• Are our musical preferences shaped in utero?
• Is there a cutoff point for acquiring new tastes in music?
• What do PET scans and MRIs reveal about the brain’s response to music?
• Is musical pleasure different from other kinds of pleasure?

This Is Your Brain on Music explores cultures in which singing is considered an essential human function, patients who have a rare disorder that prevents them from making sense of music, and scientists studying why two people may not have the same definition of pitch. At every turn, this provocative work unlocks deep secrets about how nature and nurture forge a uniquely human obsession. […]

Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (10/06/2020): Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty – a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre – took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. With an original voice that combines fearless curiosity and mordant wit, Caitlin tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters, gallows humor, and vivid characters (both living and very dead). Describing how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes), and cared for bodies of all shapes and sizes, Caitlin becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the deceased. Her eye-opening memoir shows how our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead). In the spirit of her popular Web series, “Ask a Mortician,” Caitlin’s engaging narrative style makes this otherwise scary topic both approachable and profound. […]

Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (09/01/2020): In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences

The most famous true crime novel of all time and one of the first non-fiction novels ever written; In Cold Blood is the bestseller that haunted its author long after he finished writing it.

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence. […]

Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (08/04/2020): Running the Books: the Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from Yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison.

The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. A doomed ex-stripper who asks Steinberg to orchestrate a reunion with her estranged son, himself an inmate. Over time, Steinberg is drawn into the accidental community of outcasts that has formed among his bookshelves — a drama he recounts with heartbreak and humor. But when the struggles of the prison library — between life and death, love and loyalty — become personal, Steinberg is forced to take sides.

Running the Books is a trenchant exploration of prison culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world while trying not to get fired in the process. […]

Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (07/07/2020): Mrs. Sherlock Holmes

Mrs. Grace Humiston was an amazing lawyer and a traveling detective during a time when no women were practicing those professions. She focused on solving cases no one else wanted and advocating for innocents. The first female U.S. District Attorney, she made groundbreaking investigations into modern-day slavery, and the papers gave her the nickname of fiction’s famous sleuth. One of her greatest accomplishments was solving the cold case of a missing eighteen-year-old girl, Ruth Cruger. Her work changed how the country viewed the problem of missing girls, but it came with a price: she learned all too well what happens when one woman upstages the entire NYPD. In the literary tradition of In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City, this true-crime tale is told in spine-tingling fashion and has important repercussions concerning kidnapping, the role of the media, and the truth of crime stories. But the great mystery of this book-and its haunting twist ending-is how one woman became so famous only to disappear. […]

Stranger than Fiction (05/12/2020): Liar, temptress, soldier, spy : four women undercover in the Civil War
Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (05/12/2020): Liar, temptress, soldier, spy : four women undercover in the Civil War

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women–a socialite, a farm girl, an abolitionist, and a widow–who were spies. After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives. Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. […]

Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (08/06/2019): Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

What separates your mind from an animal’s? Maybe you think it’s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future—all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet’s preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have eroded, or even been disproven outright, by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long. […]

Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (07/02/2019): The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.

These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love. […]

Book Clubs

Stranger than Fiction (06/04/2019): The Hidden Life of Trees

Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

After learning about the complex life of trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again. […]