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Non-Fiction Book Club Celebrates 5th Anniversary -- Looks Forward to Next Great Read!

Before we talk about the next book we’ll be discussing in the new year, I’d like to take a moment to mark the groups’ fifth anniversary. Our first meeting was an exploratory one in December of 2010. After discussing how we were going ot pick the books and what types of books we wanted to read we began our discussion with a Nick Flynn memoir on the first Thursday of January, 2011. The group has been going strong every first Thursday since. Some of the faces have changed, and some of the books have been more popular than others but by and large the conversations have been engaging and the atmosphere convivial. Who could ask for anything more.  I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read any of these books and who brought their experience and perspective with them to engage others in thoughtful conversation. I’ve had a great time. It’s been quite an experience for us all and it’s been a privilege for me to have moderated discussions for such an excellent group.  The full list of titles and information about the group and a short list future discussions are available here.

I’ve pulled together some numbers and facts about the last five years of reading we’ve done:

Number of books read: 55

Number of pages read: 19,551

Average number of pages read per book: 355

Average number of attendees per discussion: 11

Longest books read: Truman by David McCullough, 1117 pages; Annals of the Former World by John McPhee, 695 pages; Common Ground by J. Anthony Lukas, 674 pages; The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, 622 pages.

Shortest books read: Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal, 123 pages; The Prince by Machiavelli, 172 pages

Number of co-authored books read: 3

Number of books about the relationship between truth and fact: 2

Most frequently read author: Jill Lepore (3 titles)

Number of memoirs read: 5

Number of biographies: 9

Number of biographies if you include the biographies of Cod and Cancer: 11

Number of books about psychology and/or the human brain: 4

Number of books about WWII: 2

Number of books about exploring South America:  3

Number of Pulitzer Prize winning books: 7

Number of National Book Award for Nonfiction winners: 7

Number of times meetings were canceled due to snow storms: 1

Cancelled due to competing events at library (Foundation Author Night): 1

Cancelled due to the Independence Day Holiday: 3


Now…onto the next one.

Non-Fiction Book Club to Discuss  “How to Live” by Sarah Bakewell – 6:30 PM – January 7, 2016


How To Live, Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell

Description from Book Jacket:

How to get along with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love—such questions arise in most people’s lives. they are all versions of a bigger question: HOW DO YOU LIVE?

This question obsessed renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, perhaps the first recognizably modern individual. A nobleman, public official, and winegrower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. He called them essays, meaning “attempts” or “tries.” He put whatever was in his head into them: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog’s ears twitched when it was dreaming, as well as the appalling evens of the religious civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant best seller and, over four hundred years later, Montaigne’s honesty and charm still draw readers to him. They come in search of companionship, wisdom, and entertainment—and in search of themselves.

This book, a spirited and singular biography, relates the story of Montainge’s life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored. It traces his bizarre upbringing, his youthful career and sexual adventures, his travels, and his friendships with the scholar and poet Étienne de La BoĂ©tie and with his adopted “daughter,” Marie de Gournay. And we also meet his readers—who for centuries have found in Montaigne an inexhaustible source of answers to the haunting question, “How to live?”

About the Author:


Sarah Bakewell was a curator of early printed books at the Wellcome Library before becoming a full time writer, publishing her highly acclaimed biographies The Smart and The English Dane. She lives in London where she teaches creative writing at city University and catalogs rare book collections for the National Trust.


Pollard Library Non-Fiction book club happens at 6:30 on the first Thursday of every month. It is free and open to the public. Copies of books up for discussion are available for patrons to borrow on a first come first serve basis at the 1st Floor Information Desk. You may also reserve a copy by calling the Community Planning Department at 978-674-1542. For more information about this group please contact Sean Thibodeau, Coordinator of Community Planning, at or 978-674-1542.