Brooks Free Library will be closed on Wednesday, June 19th for Juneteenth.

Books & More: Thematic Discussion Group

Books and More is not a typical book group where everyone has to read the same book every month.  It is a thematic discussion group that meets on the Third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.  Every month we will have a different ‘theme’ and while there will be a ‘Highlight book’ that will serve as a good example of our theme, you don’t have to read that title to participate in the discussion.  You can read other books on the theme- or view movies or podcasts on the theme – and come and share what you have learned with the group. No sign-up is required, just come ready to discuss the theme and your background sources.  All are welcome and the sharing of different viewpoints and ideas is appreciated!

Upcoming Discussions

May 21 theme: Art theft

There have been a lot of great books written about particular art thefts (Isabella Stewart Gardner museum) or that focus more on the crime itself and its motives.  Read or view the highlight title or another on the topic and come to the group willing to discuss what you have read/viewed 

Highlight book: The Art thief: a true story of love, crime, and a dangerous obsession by Michael Finkel 

Other titles:

June 18 theme: Shipwrecks

There are many great stories of adventure and survival from the Age of Sail. The highlight book is an exceptionally well reviewed recent example of the genre by the author of Killers of the Flower Moon, but many other maritime tales are literary classics.
Highlight book: The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann  

Past Selections

April 16 theme: Generative Artificial Intelligence and Humanity 

There has been a lot in the news lately about ChatGPT and other Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs and applications.  Are you concerned or excited?  I have suggested some book titles, but also recommend watching free videos on YouTube or listening to podcasts and reading interviews on the topic.  AI development is rapidly changing, sometimes by the day at this point so you may see something that we have missed in these resources. Please come ready to share your sources and to talk about your feelings on the subject as well. For a worthwhile discussion, you need a basic understanding of what Generative AI is, so I recommend that you take a look at some of the videos suggested in this list. None of us are experts, but we do think this would be a valuable discussion regardless.

Highlighted book list:
Memoirs From AI Developers (A more personal look at AI)
The worlds I see: curiosity, exploration, and discovery at the dawn of AI” by Fei Fei Li
Unmasking AI : my mission to protect what is human in a world of machines” by Joy Buolamwini
You look like a thing and I love you: how artificial intelligence works and why it’s making the world a weirder place” by Janelle Shane

Longer Thinkpieces
The coming wave : technology, power, and the twenty-first century’s greatest dilemma” by Mustafa Suleyman
The age of A. I.: and our human future” by Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher

Free Videos on this Topic: 
Generative AI in a Nutshell – how to survive and thrive in the age of AI: 18 Minutes (January 2024) – Under 20-minute breakdown of what Generative AI is
AI Generated Videos Just Changed Forever: 12 Minutes (February 2024) – A look at how quickly Generative AI videos have improved
The Royal Institution – What is generative AI and how does it work?: 46 Minutes (October 2023)
60 Minutes – Artificial Intelligence: 53 Minutes (December 2023)

March 19th theme: Animal behavior and perception

Let’s talk about how non-human creatures on earth perceive their world.  For this group you could watch or view something about a particular animal (like dogs or birds) or just read the highlighted book which covers a lot of territory on this topic.  What was the fact you found the most fascinating or enlightening about how other creatures sense their world?  

Highlight book: An Immense World: how animal senses reveal the hidden world around us by Ed Yong

The theme for February was Longevity and healthcare in general. 

Please read or view something on how to live longer, about healthcare in general, and/or about our healthcare system. Come to the group ready to share any insights you have gained from your reading.  Books could include any particular diet and exercise books that you feel are worth sharing as well as books about longevity and/or our healthcare system.   

Highlighted book: Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity by Peter Attia*I found this book one of the best I have read on this topic (Jen’s 2 cents)

Other recommendations:
“Weathering: the extraordinary stress of life in an unjust society” by Geronimus
“Spring Chicken: stay young forever or die trying” by Gifford 
“Longevity project: surprising discovery for health and long life from the landmark eight decade study” by Friedman 
“Longevity paradox: how to die young at a ripe old age” by Gundry 
“Invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men” by Criado-Perez
The Blue Zones (several books) by Buettner

DVD – Where to invade next (Michael Moore) – compares our healthcare system in the US to others around the world 

The theme for January: Celebrity Biographies

There have been lots of Celebrity bios over the past few years- some more revealing than others. For this meeting come in ready to talk about your favorite (or least favorite) celebrities and something you have read (or viewed) about them 

Right now some popular titles include books about:

Britney Spears, Matt Perry, Henry Winkler, Sally Field, Michael J. Fox, Jessica Simpson, Pam Anderson, John Stamos, Jada Pinkett Smith, Demi Moore, Jennette McCurdy 

Popular magazines include People, US Weekly, Rolling Stone

The theme for December: Comedian Biographies

December 19, 2023 @ 6:30pm

Most professional comedians have led very interesting lives and there are so many that we will not have a highlighted title for this month.  Just please read at least one and come in and be willing to talk about it.  I will have a selection of books at the circulation desk but there are many more available on our shelves and in the Clams system. 

Some of my favorites include books by Saturday Night Live cast members:

Molly Shannon, Colin Jost, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. 

Other recommendations:

Trevor Noah, Randy Rainbow, Kevin Hart, Ellen Degeneres, Mindy Kaling, John Stewart, George Carlin, Mel Brooks 

DVD’s include: Joan Rivers: a piece of work, Robin Williams: inside the actors studio, Why we laugh: funny women, Love Gilda, Belushi, I am Chris Farley

Questions to think about for these meetings:

What can we learn from looking at these lives?

How did this book change (or not change) the way you look at this person?

Does the author leave anything out of this book that you were curious about?  

Do you think the author was being truthful or have you read other sources that contradict some events that the author describes?

What obstacles did the author overcome (or not overcome) and how did they do it?

Theme for November: Lincoln

Focus book for November 21, 2023 at 6:30PM

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin  

Other titles worth a look:

  • There are 1,600 other books about Lincoln!! including:
  • Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
  • Lincoln by Gore Vidal
  • Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
  • Lincoln’s Last Trial by Dan Abrams
  • And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by Jon Meacham
  • Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly
  • Speeches and Writings 1832–1858 by Abraham Lincoln

Films and Documentaries:

  • Lincoln (2012 biographical film based on Team of Rivals)
  • Abraham Lincoln (2022 documentary)

October: Indigenous Peoples

Focus book for October 17, 2023 at 6:30PM

Indigenous Continent by Pekka Hämäläinen  

Other titles worth a look:

  • The Indian World Of George Washington by Colin Calloway
  • 1491by Charles C.Mann
  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer
  • On Savage Shoresby Caroline Dodds Pennock
  • Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
  • The year with disappeared 

Films and Documentaries:

  • We Shall Remain (2029 PBS)
  • 500 Nations (1995 CBS)

September: True Crime on Cape Cod

Focus book for September 19, 2023 at 6:30PM

Helltown: the untold story of a serial killer on Cape Cod by Casey Sherman  

Other titles worth a look:

  • Invisible Eden 
  • When Evil Rules
  • Cape Cod Confidential 
  • The year with disappeared 

August: Wildlife on Cape Cod 

Focus book for August 1, 2023 at 6:30

Return of the Osprey: a season of flight and wonder by David Gessner

This book is a classic about watching Ospreys on Cape Cod, but you do not have to read this particular book.  Please come and talk with us about nature on Cape Cod.  Share your stories about birds, coyotes, bunnies, fisher cats, whatever you want to talk about.  Let us know other great books you have read or documentaries you have seen that you would recommend and come and share your knowledge with others.  
Other titles worth a look:

  • Anything else by David Gessner including Soaring with Fidel: an Osprey odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and beyond
  • Other bird books: look in call number 598 for books about owls, hawks, hummingbirds, quails, finches etc.