Kris Wiley new mug

Kris Wiley

I have fond memories of silent reading time at school. That was when I became a voracious reader because specific books weren’t assigned; rather, I had the opportunity to explore titles and authors, and I discovered Rosamunde Pilcher, Hannibal Lecter and “Nicholas and Alexandra” by Robert K. Massie, all of which I still recommend.

Roseburg Public Library’s Silent Book Group is a spinoff of that tradition. We’ve added good snacks, cozy chairs and, most important, time to talk about what we’re reading.

Participants bring their own materials and we quietly read for about 45 minutes. We then spend about 15 minutes talking about what we’re reading, which quickly veers into what we read last week and what we plan to read next week.

Everyone is welcome, and no registration is required. All you need to bring is yourself and a book.

There are a number of benefits to silently reading at the library instead of at home. First, you won’t be interrupted; this is 45 minutes of dedicated time without distractions. Second, I already mentioned the good snacks. Third, your reading stack is sure to grow. And my favorite benefit, you’ll make new friends who share a passion for reading and learning.

Silent Book Group meets the last Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m.

At our next meeting on Tuesday, June 25, I will share my enthusiasm for “The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West” by David McCullough about the white settlement of what is now Ohio. McCullough brought to life several Revolutionary War veterans I didn’t know, and he illuminated a piece of history about which I knew practically nothing.

Inevitably, I’ll let it slip that I love McCullough’s writing because he makes connections between people in an easy-to-read style and because reading his books always makes me want to visit the places he describes. No doubt I’ll fawn over a couple of other McCullough favorites, “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris” and “The Wright Brothers.”

After I wax poetic about McCullough, I’ll transition to another favorite nonfiction writer, the late Tony Horwitz. I just finished “Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide.”

Olmsted is best known as the architect of Central Park, but in his earlier years, he twice traveled through the South as a correspondent for the New York Times. Horwitz followed Olmsted’s path, of course taking several different modes of transportation. He compared the social, political and cultural landscape of the mid-1850s about which Olmsted wrote with that which he encountered, and the result is a humorous but rather melancholic travelogue.

“Spying on the South” is a worthy companion to Horwitz’s masterpiece “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War.”

Because my reading has focused on nonfiction recently, I look forward to getting fiction recommendations at Silent Book Group. Please join us and share what you’ve been reading lately.

Kris Wiley is the director of the Roseburg Public Library. She can be reached at 541-492-7051 or

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Community Reporter

Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review, mother of two and a native of Roseburg. She is an alumni of RHS, UCC and Western Oregon University. Contact her at or 541-957-4218.

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