Truth Be Told Non-Fiction Book Club

Four SeasonsTruth Be Told Non-Fiction Book Club meets quarterly to discuss a selected non-fiction title. Our meetings are held on Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30pm in the Tompkins Trust Company Study Room.

Please register with us in advance to obtain a copy of the selected title (there are a limited number available). For more information, or to register, contact Tom Burns at

Truth Be Told Non-Fiction Book Club Meeting Dates in 2018

Tuesdays: March 6, May 1, August 7, November 6
6:30 - 7:30 PM
Tompkins Trust Company Study Room

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

March 2018 Selection

Leonardo da Vinci
by Walter Isaacson

The author of the acclaimed bestsellers Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography. Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history's most creative genius.

Previous Selections

Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits by Chip Colwell

Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America's Culture
by Chip Colwell

Who owns the past and the objects that physically connect us to history? And who has the right to decide this ownership, particularly when the objects are sacred or, in the case of skeletal remains, human? Is it the museums that care for the objects or the communities whose ancestors made them? These questions are at the heart of Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits, an unflinching insider account by a leading curator who has spent years learning how to balance these controversial considerations.

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
by Cathy O'Neil

We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance—are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated. But as Cathy O'Neil reveals in this shocking book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they're wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: if a poor student can't get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his race or neighborhood), he's then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a "toxic cocktail for democracy." Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.

The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams (Translator)

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams (Translator)

The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together in Dharamsala for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet (

Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy
by Heather Ann Thompson

Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century, exploring every aspect of the uprising and its legacy from the perspectives of all of those involved in this forty-five-year fight for justice: the prisoners, the state officials, the lawyers on both sides, the state troopers and corrections officers, and the families of the slain men (

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
by David Grann

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve "the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century": what happened to British explorer Percy Fawcett. In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization. For centuries Europeans believed the world's largest jungle concealed the glittering El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. But Fawcett had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions, he embarked with his 21-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization, which he dubbed "Z", existed. Then he and his expedition vanished. Fawcett's fate —and the clues he left behind— became an obsession for hundreds who followed him. As Grann delved deeper into Fawcett's mystery, and the greater mystery of the Amazon, he found himself irresistibly drawn into the "green hell" (publisher description).

If you liked The Lost City of Z, check out this list of similar titles.

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
by Steven Pinker

"The subtitle might seem counterintuitive, but Pinker reminds us that, in fact, centuries past were saturated with slavery, child abuse, assassinations, pogroms, and cruel and unusual punishments of all kinds. Those things have declined, as evidenced by the charts and graphs Pinker supplies. A heartening thought; what will be even more interesting is seeing how the penetrating Pinker, Harvard psychology professor and author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Blank Slate, explains how and why "the better angels of our nature" are prevailing. Pinker can be demanding and yet is pervasively popular —as suggested by the 12-city tour— and this book expands beyond his previous audience" (Library Journal).

If you liked The Better Angels of Our Nature, check out this list of similar titles.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

"In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society..." (Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal)

If you liked Between the World and Me, check out this list of similar titles.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts
by Erik Larson

"In this readable narrative, author Larson (The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck) offers a real-life, eyewitness perspective inside the Nazi hierarchy as Hitler came to power. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered professor from Chicago, became the first US ambassador to Hitler's Germany in 1933. Dodd, his wife, their son, and their 24-year-old daughter Martha lived in Germany for about five years. Drawing on Martha's diaries and letters, much of the book centers on Martha's romantic affairs with high-ranking Nazi officials and her eventual heroism as she realized Hitler's true character. Meanwhile, her father William Dodd informed the US State Department of increasing Jewish persecution, with little response from the State Department. The book sheds light on why it took so long for the world to recognize the threat posed by Hitler" (Book News).

If you liked In the Garden of Beasts, check out this list of similar titles.

Walkable City by Jeff Speck

Walkable City
by Jeff Speck

Walkable City is brimming with keen observations and real-world examples from Speck, a city planner and architectural designer who advocates for small growth and sustainable design. He presents a practical, necessary and achievable plan for making American cities work.

If you liked Walkable City, check out this list of similar titles.

The Tender Bar, A Memoir by J.R. Moehlinger

The Tender Bar: A Memoir
by J.R. Moehlinger

This classic American story of self-invention and escape is suspenseful, wrenching and achingly funny. It's the poignant story of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son and an unforgettable portrait of a boy's struggle to become a man, with the help of a fathering-by-committee provided by characters from a local bar.

If you liked The Tender Bar: A Memoir, check out this list of similar titles.

The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs

The Animal Dialogues
by Craig Childs

"Naturalist and essayist Childs celebrates wild creatures met in wild places...The author has a talent for bringing his encounters home and fashioning them into chromatic, immediate accounts. Some of the experiences chronicled here are quite simply breath-catching and heart-gladdening: following an intermittent stream of ruby-red dragonflies to a water source in a dry land; watching 50 violet-green swallows 'working a cat's cradle into the air'; placing a mouse upon a branch to become a canapé for a northern spotted owl. Occasionally —and profoundly, as the pursuer becomes the pursued —Childs is reminded that his place on the food chain is not necessarily at the apex" (Kirkus).

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat
by Daniel James Brown

"Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936" (Penguin Putnam).

If you enjoyed The Boys in the Boat, here's a list of similar titles.

Here is the recommended reading list in PDF format.

Page last modified Dec 12, 2017