Tombs and Tomes Book Club

Tombs & Tomes Book Club

Book Club Basics

Tombs and Tomes is Congressional Cemetery’s book club.

We meet every other month on the second Tuesday in our historic Chapel (hopefully in person but outside this month), and we discuss primarily non-fiction books.

Our book selections have no rhyme and reason; however, our choices tend to stray towards the macabre, as is natural for a cemetery book club. Our very first meeting was in September 2013 and we chose to read Stiff, by Mary Roach (pictured here with Doug Graves, Congressional Cemetery’s mascot and NOT a real skeleton!).

It’s free to join, and mostly free to attend. For each in-person meeting, we simply ask that you bring either a $5 donation or a bit of food or wine to share with the group. Extra points for brownies!

Interested in learning more?
Read our January 2014 blog post about Tombs and Tomes,
Request to join our Goodreads group.

Still interested?
Sign up using the button below. This will add you to our mailing list where you will receive details for the next meeting.

Sign up here!

Up Next

May 2021 Meeting

Our next meeting is May 11, at 6:30 pm,
Outside at Congressional Cemetery, weather permitting[also available on Zoom]

Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, & Criminal in 19th-Century New York
by Stacy Horn


Today it is known as Roosevelt Island. In 1828, when New York City purchased this narrow, two-mile-long island in the East River, it was called Blackwell’s Island. There, over the next hundred years, the city would send its insane, indigent, sick, and criminal. Told through the gripping voices of Blackwell’s inhabitants, as well as the period’s city officials, reformers, and journalists (including the famous Nellie Bly), Stacy Horn has crafted a compelling and chilling narrative.

Damnation Island recreates what daily life was like on the island, what politics shaped it, and what constituted charity and therapy in the nineteenth century. Throughout the book, we return to the extraordinary Blackwell’s missionary Reverend French, champion of the forgotten, as he ministers to these inmates, battles the bureaucratic mazes of the Corrections Department and a corrupt City Hall, testifies at salacious trials, and in his diary wonders about man’s inhumanity to man.

For history fans, and for anyone interested in the ways we care for the least fortunate among us, Damnation Island is an eye-opening look at a closed and secretive world. With a tale that is exceedingly relevant today, Horn shows us how far we’ve come—and how much work still remains.

If you’re a first-time attendee, please SIGN UP HERE to be added to the notification list.

Tomes & Tombs Book Club

May 11 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Tomes & Tombs Book Club

July 13 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Tomes & Tombs Book Club

September 14 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Tomes & Tombs Book Club

November 9 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Past Reads

We warned you, our book club reads are eclectic!
Here are all of our past reads, and see below for our current pick. If you can’t join us at our meetings, read along with us!

Our Reading List


September | Stiff by Mary Roach

November | The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson



January | Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

March | Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

May | The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

July | The Lost City of Z by David Grann

September | The Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber

November | The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan



January | Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

March | Spook by Mary Roach

May | Tinseltown: Murder, Mystery, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann

July | Little Demon in the City of Light by Steven Levingston

September | Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman

November | Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home by Sheri Booker



January | Working Stiff by Judy Melenik and TJ Mitchell

March | American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus

May | Dead Presidents by Brady Carlson

July | The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio by Hubert Wolf

September | Necropolis: London and Its Dead by Catherine Arnold

November | In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides



January | Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

March | In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

May | The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

July | Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

September | Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud by Elizabeth Greenwood

November | The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston



January | From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

March | The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

by Lindsey Fitzharris

May | Bellevue by David Oshinsky

July | Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

September | The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

November | In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson



January | Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

March | Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

May | The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

July | Death’s Acre by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson

September | The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Story of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown

November | I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara



January | The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

March | Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

May | The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

July | The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo

September | Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney

November | The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia  by Emma Copley Eisenberg



January | The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney, Peter Stastny

March | Ghost Maps: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Stephen Johnson

May | Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, & Criminal in 19th-Century New York by Stacy Horn

July | Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin by Megan Rosenbloom