Category Archives: nonfiction

In Cold Blood: in real life

The Lawrence Journal-World & News has published a photo gallery of images related to the murder of the Clutter family, Truman Capote and his work on In Cold Blood, if you’re interested. Pictures include yearbook photos of Nancy and Kenyon Clutter, what the Clutter home looks like today, and various locations featured in the book.

As far as the subtitle of Capote’s book, “a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences,” what, if anything, do you think the author might add if the book were reissued today?


Read with Me in November: In Cold Blood

A little more than 50 years ago this month, four members of the Clutter family were shot and killed in their Kansas farmhouse. Truman Capote’s book, In Cold Blood, chronicles the crime and its aftermath, including the criminal investigation, trial and later hanging of the men responsible. In Cold Blood is considered a classic of the true crime genre and one of the first examples of narrative nonfiction so popular today.

Click here to read an excerpt of the book; you can pick up your copy at the Main Library’s Circulation desk or reserve a copy online.

Thanks for reading Spook with me!

Thanks for reading Spook with me during the month of October!

To wrap up, did you find that the book influenced your beliefs in an afterlife or lack thereof?

Why is discussion and research about the existence of an afterlife important, or isn’t it?  

If you’ve read other books by Mary Roach, how did this one hold up to the others? Would you recommend it to friends? Why or why not?

If you are interested in more on this subject, try:

Ghost Hunters: William James and the search for scientific proof of life after death by Deborah Blum

Ghosts Caught on Film: photographs of the paranormal? by Melvyn J. Willin and Ghosts Caught on Film 2 by Jim Eaton

Occult America: the secret history of how mysticism shaped our nation by Mitch Horowitz

Possessions: the history and uses of haunting in the Hudson Valley by Judith Richardson

The Perfect Medium: photography and the occult by Yale University Press

Spook: on the author…

Mary Roach is quite a present figure in Spook; how does her narration add to or detract from the book? Why do you think she chose to write the book based on her own experience? Is there such a thing as being too skeptical? What do you think of her use of humor?

Spook: reading group guide questions

The publisher’s reading group guide for Mary Roach’s Spook has some great questions:

In Spook, Mary Roach explores a great variety of answers humankind has come up with to explain the soul’s destiny. Despite their diversity, do these theories reveal any universal qualities of the human imagination?

Roach encounters numerous researchers attempting to connect spirituality with material evidence. Isn’t the relationship between spirituality and physicality inherently antithetical?

In Chapter Six, Roach describes several skeptics’ schemes for trying to establish contact with the dead through coded messages established prior to subjects’ deaths. Can you think of a foolproof test for ascertaining a medium’s reliability?

Roach reports that our likelihood of believing in a given paranormal phenomenon increases with our intimacy with the source of the story, with family members proving most credible. Is there a lesson in this?

Spook: how much proof?

While attending medium school, the class pairs off for practice and the man doing Mary Roach’s reading says he’s picked up on a heavy-drinking man with a big belly and suspenders. It reminds Mary of a friend who’d recently died of cirrhosis and she writes,

“It leaves me wondering. Men who drink too much often have big bellies so there’s nothing surprising there. It’s the suspenders bit that grabs me, combined with the newness of this person’s death. If I were inclined to easy persuasion, I might be persuaded.”

How much and what kind of proof do you think the average person would need to believe in life after death? How much proof would you need? Would an experience similar to this one be enough to convince you? Why or why not?

Spook: content vs. title

How well does the content of Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife hold up to the book’s title and subtitle?