Since 1835, The Mercantile Library has offered diverse and varied events. Today programs range from dynamic lecturers and speakers, experts on a wide array of subjects—politics, art, literature, science, religion– to yoga (for members), discussion groups, vocal and music performances, Writers’ Nights, and much, much more.

Signature Events

The annual Signature Events are the cornerstone of the calendar, each with a recurring theme: The Annual Members’ Meeting, Words and Music, 1835 Lecture, Hearth & Home, Harriet Beecher Stowe Freedom Writer Award, Memoir, Science & Nature, 2035 Lecture, Albert Pyle Urban, and Modern Novel.

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Literary Evenings

Literary Evenings (and sometimes afternoons) feature some of the most compelling authors, poets, and journalists working today. Sometimes a reading, sometimes a lecture or conversation, they are always intimate and lively.

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Niehoff Lecture

The pinnacle of the Library’s season is the Niehoff Gala, the library’s only official annual fundraiser. It is a night to celebrate the greatest and most respected writers of our time. From the start it has been a talented and eclectic group.

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Discussion Groups

Discussion groups at The Mercantile Library are led by Library members and focus on a variety of subjects. Groups typically meet in the 12th Story Lecture Hall. Seating is limited, and reservations are required. Some are series-subscription only, others are individual session optional.

2019 Mercantile Library discussion groups are sponsored by The Camden Foundation

Walnut Street Poetry Society

The Walnut Street Poetry Society was founded in 2004 and is devoted to the reading and study of poetry. Moderated by Dr. Norman Finkelstein, poet and professor of English at Xavier University, as well as group members.

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First Wednesdays

Held on the first Wednesday of every month, this is a book club without the commitment, and with new members every month. A Mercantile favorite, First Wednesdays feature different moderators each month. The books are fiction and nonfiction, current, popular, and sometimes overlooked older works.

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Peregrine Haiku Society

Haiku writers’ workshop and read around, led by Patti Niehoff. Forget 5-7-5, this group is for anyone interested in focusing on those tiny moments of illumination, honing their craft, or just curious about the art form. Open to all levels of expertise.

Patti Williams Niehoff has been studying and writing Haiku for 40 years.

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Crime & Punishment in Three Easy Pieces

Who needs beach reading? This summer, we’re going tackle a masterpiece by one of the great names of Russian literature, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Less than 100 pages a week read over six weeks. We can do this.

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Summer Reading: A Discussion Group for Children & Their Grown-ups

No reading logs, worksheets or book reports. Just some fun summer reading that gives kids and their grown-ups a new way to connect.

Two sessions. Come to one or both.

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President of the United States is arguably the most powerful and difficult position in the world. This new multi-year series examines one-by-one, in order, the individuals who have occupied the office since 1789. In doing so, participants will learn about each President and the power of the Presidency. Year Two, led by Brendon Cull, begins with Andrew Jackson and ends with Zachary Taylor.

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Common Threads with Rich Lauf

Common Threads with Rich Lauf

This group, led by longtime Mercantile member and discussion leader Rich Lauf, looks at four books with a similar theme—sometimes broad, sometimes specific, and always open for interpretation.

The theme this year is Music in Literature, Literature in Music.

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Literary Journeys with Tony Covatta

In its 14th season, Literary Journeys is led by Anthony Covatta. Covatta taught English at Columbia University and Skidmore College. He has focused his interest in the literature of foreign countries ever since he started practicing law in Cincinnati in 1979. He is an attorney at Frost Brown Todd.

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Canon Club

One of the Library’s longest-running discussion groups—the Canon Club—recently accomplished the laudable task of reading Shakespeare’s complete dramatic works. Joining each discussion are members of The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

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Rock & Read

“Music books” encompass memoirs, biographies, novels that feature music and those involved with it as a subject, collections of short stories written by musicians, books that look critically or historically at music’s cultural impact, and more.

Steven Rosen, the group’s organizer, is a co-founder of Cincinnati Vinyl Club and arts editor at Cincinnati CityBeat. 

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The Kamholtz Course

The Kamholtz Course is an institution within the institution of The Mercantile Library. Mercantile members have been enjoying University of Cincinnati English professor Jonathan Kamholtz’s well-researched and animated lectures for over 30 years. This year’s course, Suffer The Children, begins in April and will focus on children on their own, or in jeopardy, and what the world looks like from their perspectives.

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Graphic Novel

Begun in 2008, this group discusses a wide range of graphic novels, from classics like Maus, and Persepolis, to acclaimed newer works like Asterios Polyp, Habibi, Fun Home, and March. Also includes quality traditional comics, from DC and Marvel, all-ages stories like Bone, and even Peanut comic strips.

Moderated by Jeff Suess.

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New American Literature with Hillary Copsey

Update your required reading list by considering contemporary books with the classics that came before them.

Come to one session or all four.

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Performing Arts

Performing arts have been a part of the Mercantile Library since Shakespearean actor James Murdoch in performed here in 1842. We are proud to partner with Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Salon 21, Catacoustic Consort, The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and other arts organizations in presenting concerts, talks, and lectures.

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Yoga for members only is offered twice weekly in the Reading Room. The classes are open to all levels, and are led by instructor Laura Ginocchio.

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