Book Discussion Kits

Book Discussion Kit Home

Sno-Isle Libraries and the Sno-Isle Foundation are proud to offer book discussion kits.

Each kit includes 10 copies of a single title. Resources for book discussions may be found at publishers' websites, bound into some editions of the book, or at www.bookreporter.com or www.readinggroupguides.com (Download a printer friendly list of book kits.)

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Alan Turing

Hodges, Andrew

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades--all before his suicide at age forty-one. This acclaimed biography of the founder of computer science, with a new preface by the author that addresses Turing's royal pardon in 2013, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life...
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All the Single Ladies

Traister, Rebecca

In 2009 the proportion of American women who were married dropped below fifty percent and the median age of first marriages, which had remained between twenty and twenty-two years old for nearly a century (1890-1980), had risen dramatically to twenty-seven.

Over the course of Traister's research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women, Traister discovered a startling truth: the phenomenon of the single woman in America is not a new one. And historically, when women were given options beyond early heterosexual marriage, the results were massive social change--temperance, abolition, secondary education, and more. Today, only twenty percent of Americans are married by age twenty-nine, compared to nearly sixty percent in 1960.

A New York Times Notable Book

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Bees, The

Paull, Laline

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive, where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive's survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw, but her courage and strength are assets. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect nectar and pollen. A feat of bravery grants her access to the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

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Animals Science & Nature Sci-fi/Fantasy
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Being Mortal

Gawande, Atul

A prominent surgeon argues against modern medical practices that extend life at the expense of quality of life while isolating the dying, outlining suggestions for freer, more fulfilling approaches to death that enable more dignified and comfortable choices. A moving rumination of the limitations of science and the needs of loved ones.

Booklist Editors' Choice
Indies' Choice Book Awards
New York Times Notable Books
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Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America

Egan, Timothy

Narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire of August, 1910, and Teddy Roosevelt's pioneering conservation efforts that helped turn public opinion permanently in favor of the forests, though it changed the mission of the forest service with consequences felt in the fires of today.

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History Politics Science & Nature
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Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, The

Kamkwamba, William

A resonant, hopeful, engaging memoir showing the power of the human spirit through the author’s difficult life in Malawi and his quest to bring electricity to his village by building a windmill from scraps.

Alex Award

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Boy Who Loved Too Much, The: A True Story of Pathological Friendliness

Latson, Jennifer

A journalist describes the story of a twelve-year-old boy suffering from Williams syndrome, a genetic, developmental disorder that makes him impervious to social inhibitions and incapable of distrust, putting him at an extreme disadvantage for life in modern times. In a vivid and sympathetic telling based on three years of immersive reporting, Jennifer Latson intertwines Eli and Gayle's story with a look a the genetic basis of behavior, revealing how insights drawn from this rare condition shine a light on what makes us all human.
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Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Kimmerer, Robin Wall

Professor and botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer shares memories of her past mixed with legends from her Potawatomi ancestors in this engaging and meditative collection of essays that invites readers to express gratitude for everyday gifts.
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Braving the Wilderness

Brown, Brené

There is evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality. Social scientist Brown has conducted exhaustive research into loneliness and failed relationships. Through interviews, case studies, and surveys, she shows how many people long for - but struggle to achieve - connection with others. She investigates the things that prevent this: distractions of daily life, self doubts, even perfectionism. And she shares her own history of self-destructive and unstable behavior, and her own efforts to combat fear of rejection and find togetherness. With enthusiasm and compassion, she urges readers to venture forth into the "wilderness" of relationships and to have the courage to believe in ourselves and to reach out to others.
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Breath of A Whale, The

Calvez, Leigh

An exploration of the elusive lives of whales in the Pacific Ocean. Leigh Calvez has spent a dozen years researching, observing, and probing the lives of the giants of the deep.
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Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, A: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes

Rutherford, Adam

In our unique genomes, every one of us carries the story of our species--births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex. But those stories have always been locked away--until now. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story--from 100,000 years ago to the present. This book will upend your thinking on Neanderthals, evolution, royalty, race, and even redheads. Plus, here is the remarkable, controversial story of how our genes made their way to the Americas--one that's still being written, as ever more of us have our DNA sequenced. Rutherford closes with "A Short Introduction to the Future of Humankind," filled with provocative questions that we're on the cusp of answering: Are we still in the grasp of natural selection? Are we evolving for better or worse? And . . . where do we go from here?

Book Critics Circle Award Nominee
Wellcome Book Prize Nominee

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History International Science & Nature Society & Culture
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Confidence Game, The

Konnikova, Maria

Think you can't get conned? Think again. The New York Times bestselling author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes explains how to spot the con before they spot you. How do they do it? Why are they successful? And what keeps us falling for it, over and over again? These are the questions that journalist and psychologist Maria Konnikova tackles in her mesmerizing new book. From multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes to small-time frauds, Konnikova pulls together a selection of fascinating stories to demonstrate what all cons share in common, drawing on scientific, dramatic, and psychological perspectives. Insightful and gripping, the book brings readers into the world of the con, examining the relationship between artist and victim. The Confidence Game asks not only why we believe con artists, but also examines the very act of believing and how our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us.

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Crime Science & Nature Society & Culture
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Crow Planet

Haupt, Lyanda Lynn

There are more crows now than ever. Their abundance is both a sign of ecological imbalance and a generous opportunity to connect with the animal world. CROW PLANET is a call to experience the wildlife in our midst, reminding us that we don't have to head to faraway places to encounter "nature." Even in the cities and suburbs where we live we are surrounded by wildlife such as crows. Through observing them we enhance our appreciation of the world's natural order, and find our own place in it. Haupt, a trained naturalist, uses science, scholarly research, myth, and personal observation to draw readers into the "crow stories" that unfold around us every day, culminating in book that transforms the way we experience our neighborhoods and our world.
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Death and Life of the Great Lakes, The

Egan, Dan

The Great Lakes--Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior--hold 20 percent of the world's supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance, work and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is prize-winning reporter Dan Egan's compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.

Booklist Editors' Choice
LA Times Book Prize

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Awards History Science & Nature
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Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

Olson, Steve

For months in early 1980, scientists, journalists, sightseers, and nearby residents listened anxiously to rumblings in Mount St. Helens, part of the chain of western volcanoes fueled by the 700-mile-long Cascadia fault. Still, no one was prepared when an immense eruption took the top off of the mountain and laid waste to hundreds of square miles of verdant forests in southwestern Washington State. The eruption was one of the largest in human history, deposited ash in eleven U.S. states and five Canadian providences, and caused more than one billion dollars in damage. It killed fifty-seven people, some as far as thirteen miles away from the volcano’s summit. Shedding new light on the cataclysm, author Steve Olson interweaves the history and science behind this event with page-turning accounts of what happened to those who lived and those who died.

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History Pacific Northwest Science & Nature
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Flight Behavior

Kingsolver, Barbara

Set in the present day in the rural community of Feathertown, Tennessee, this novel tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a petite, razor-sharp 29-year-old who nurtured worldly ambitions before becoming pregnant and marrying at seventeen...In the opening scene, Dellarobia is headed for a secluded mountain cabin to meet this man and initiate what she expects will be a self-destructive affair. But the tryst never happens. Instead, she walks into something on the mountainside she cannot explain or understand: a forested valley filled with a lake of silent red fire that appears to her a miracle. In reality, the forest is ablaze with millions of butterflies. Their usual migratory route has been disrupted, and what looks to be a stunningly beautiful view is really an ominous sign, for the Appalachian winter could prove to be the demise of the species. Her discovery of this phenomenon ignites a media and religious firestorm that changes her life forever...

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Awards Family Science & Nature
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Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

Vaillant, John

When a shattered kayak and camping gear are found on an uninhabited island in the Pacific Northwest, they reignite a mystery surrounding a shocking act of protest. Five months earlier, logger-turned-activist Grant Hadwin had plunged naked into a river in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, towing a chainsaw. When his night's work was done, a unique Sitka spruce, 165 feet tall and covered with luminous golden needles, teetered on its stump. Two days later it fell.As vividly as John Krakauer puts readers on Everest, John Vaillant takes us into the heart of North America's last great forest.

BC Book Prizes: Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize

Governor General's Literary Awards: English-Language Nonfiction

Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize

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Awards Pacific Northwest Science & Nature
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H is for Hawk

Macdonald, Helen

When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer-Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood-she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life. Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.

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Animals Awards Bio & Memoir Family International Science & Nature
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Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space

Lee Shetterly, Margot

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as "Human Computers," calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these "colored computers," as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America's fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Kit donated by the Coupeville "One Thing" Book Group.
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Highest Tide

Lynch, Jim

One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles OMalley slips out of his house, packs up his kayak and goes exploring on the flats of Puget Sound. But what begins as an ordinary hunt for starfish, snails, and clams is soon transformed by an astonishing sight: a beached giant squid.
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House of Hope and Fear, The

Young, Audrey

Opening with the view of an idealistic young doctor entering her first post-graduate job, The House of Hope and Fear explores not only the personal journey of one doctor's life and career but also the health care system as a whole. The setting is Seattle's Harborview Hospital.
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Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The

Skloot, Rebecca

Documents the story of how scientists took cells from an unsuspecting descendant of freed slaves and created a human cell line that has been kept alive indefinitely, enabling discoveries in such areas as cancer research, in vitro fertilization and gene mapping. Includes reading-group guide. Reprint. A best-selling book.

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Awards Bio & Memoir History Science & Nature Social Justice Watch It
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Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The

Skloot, Rebecca

Documents the story of how scientists took cells from an unsuspecting descendant of freed slaves and created a human cell line that has been kept alive indefinitely, enabling discoveries in such areas as cancer research, in vitro fertilization and gene mapping. Includes reading-group guide. A best-selling book.

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Awards Bio & Memoir History Science & Nature Social Justice Watch It
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Inheritance, The: A Family on the Front Lines of the Battle Against Alzheimer's Disease

Kapsambelis, Niki

"Every 69 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. For most people, there is nothing that they can do to fight back. But one family is doing all they can. The DeMoe family has the most devastating form of the disease that there is: early onset Alzheimer's, an inherited genetic mutation that causes the disease in 100 percent of cases. Of the six DeMoe children whose father had it, five have inherited the gene; the sixth, Karla, has inherited responsibility for all of them. But rather than give up in the face of such news, the DeMoes have agreed to spend their precious, abbreviated years as part of a worldwide study that could utterly change the landscape of Alzheimer's research and offers the brightest hope for future treatments--and possibly a cure. This incredible narrative redefines courage in the face of one of the most pervasive and mysterious pandemics of our time"-- Provided by publisher.

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Family Science & Nature
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Lab Girl

Jahren, Hope

"In Lab Girl, Jahren traces her path from an early infatuation with the natural world to her hard-earned triumphs as a scientist recognized for breakthrough contributions to her field. She braids together stories of her emotional and professional challenges, of the bond with her odd and brilliant lab partner who helped her persevere, and descriptions of plant life that, at once lyrical and precise, reveal the unseen processes driving the natural world. Through these different perspectives, she draws unexpected connections between plants and the people whose lives depend on them that will make you see both realms in a new light." -from the publisher

National Book Critics Circle Award

New York Times Notable Book

Science Books and Films Prize for Excellence in Science Books

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Life in the Garden

Lively, Penelope

Written like a conversation with a friend, this is a charming and poetic memoir delighting in all things gardening, from history to literature to psychology to the simple joy of a day’s labor.
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Lost City of the Monkey God, The

Preston, Douglas J.

"Since the days of Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. In 1940 journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City-- but then committed suicide without revealing its location. In 2012 Preston joined a team of scientists using classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. They found evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization-- and returned carrying a horrifying, sometimes lethal-- and incurable-- disease." -Provided by the publisher

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Bio & Memoir International Science & Nature
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My Old Man and the Mountain

Whittaker, Leif

Growing up in a mountaineering family in Port Townsend, Leif explores his relationship to his legendary father, Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest in 1963. Leif also describes his process of discovering his own path. Filled with descriptions of local places and peaks, this climbing story focuses on family and relationships. How do we define ourselves when a larger than life person is leading the way?

2017 Washington State Book Award finalist

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Bio & Memoir Family History Pacific Northwest Science & Nature
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On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

Horowitz, Alexandra

On Looking begins with inattention. It is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived 'ordinary.' Horowitz encourages us to rediscover the extraordinary things that we are missing in our ordinary activities. Even when engaged in the simplest of activities like taking a walk around the block, we pay so little attention to most of what is right before us that we are sleepwalkers in our own lives.

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Science & Nature

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Part Wild

Terrill, Ceiridwen

An "introspective and lyrical" ( Booklist ) memoir about a woman and her wolfdog hybrid-a powerful combination of storytelling and science that is as informative as it is moving. When Ceiridwen Terrill adopts a wolfdog-part husky, part gray wolf- named Inyo to be her protector and fellow traveler, she is drawn to Inyo's spark of wildness and compelled by the great responsibility, even danger, that accompanies the allure of the wild.

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Animals Bio & Memoir Science & Nature
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Plover, The

Doyle, Brian

Declan O Donnell has sailed out of Oregon and deep into the vast, wild ocean, having had just finally enough of other people and their problems. He will go it alone, he will be his own country, he will be beholden to and beloved of no one. No man is an island, my butt, he thinks. I am that very man . . . . But the galaxy soon presents him with a string of odd, entertaining, and dangerous passengers, who become companions of every sort and stripe. The Plover is the story of their adventures and misadventures in the immense blue country one of their company calls Pacifica. Hounded by a mysterious enemy, reluctantly acquiring one new resident after another, Declan O Donnell's lonely boat is eventually crammed with humor, argument, tension, and a resident herring gull.

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Pacific Northwest Science & Nature
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Quiet

Cain, Susan

Demonstrates how introverted people are misunderstood and undervalued in modern culture, charting the rise of extrovert ideology while sharing anecdotal examples of how to use introvert talents to adapt to various situations.

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Awards Not so Grim Science & Nature Society & Culture
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Radium Girls, The

Moore, Kate

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" were considered the luckiest alive--until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America's biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights. The Radium Girls explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

ALA Notable Books
Booklist Editors' Choice
Goodreads Choice Awards7
LibraryReads Favorites
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Soul of an Octopus, The

Montgomery, Sy

Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.

National Book Award Finalist
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee
American Library Association Notables
Booklist Editor's Choice

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Animals Awards Not so Grim Science & Nature Youth
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Sound of A Wild Snail Eating, The

Bailey, Elisabeth Tova

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

John Burroughs Medal
William Saroyan International Prize
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Wanderers, The

Howrey, Meg

A private space exploration company is mounting a manned mission to Mars. To prepare for the actual event, the company plans an elaborate training program to match the conditions and potential problems the team might face. The ordeal, though simulated, is no less dramatic for the astronauts, their families, and the crew. The lines cross between fiction and reality and none of the participants is left unchanged. Part literary fiction, part sci-fi, all amazing. -- Marie Byars

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Science & Nature
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White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche

Krist, Gary

In February 1910, a monstrous blizzard centered on Washington State hit the Northwest, breaking records. Near the tiny town of Wellington, high in the Cascade Mountains, two trainloads of cold, hungry passengers and their crews found their railcars gradually being buried int eh rising drifts. For days, an army of railroad employees worked to rescue the trains. Panic and rage set in as snow accumulated on the cliffs overhanging the trains. Finally, just when escape seemed possible, the earth shifted and an avalanche tumbed from the high pinnacles. Donated by the East County Senior Center.

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History Pacific Northwest Science & Nature