One book. One city. In 1998, the Washington Center for the Book posed the question --"What if all Seattle read the same book?" Six years later we have the definitive answer. If the people in Seattle read the same book, then by gosh, the folks in Chicago would choose one too. Like dominoes, the cities and towns fell into line, each selecting a title they felt would stimulate community discussion. Even Springfield. In 2002 Lincoln Library, along with the public libraries in Chatham and Rochester, invited the public to read Kent Haruf's Plainsong, the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. Readers loved Haruf's book and they came in large numbers to meet the author when he came to town.
After the success of the first program, dubbed "Together We Read," the question became, "What's next?" Lots of people had lots of ideas. In fact five additional libraries had signed on: Ashland, New Berlin, Petersburg, Sherman, and Williamsville. One author's name kept resurfacing. Barbara Kingsolver. There were, however, a few problems with the choice. First, she rarely travels to do book appearances. Her assistant told us, very nicely, "Traveling is too greatly at odds with being a mother to young children, writing books, and responsibly engaging with her local community." The committee saw this response as bad news and good news. The bad news: she's not coming. The good news: she practices what she preaches.
In the end the librarians decided Ms. Kingsolver's body of work is so good they would stick with their choice. Rather than choosing just one book, the program will honor her entire oeuvre, which includes the novels The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams, and Prodigal Summer, a collection of essays, Small Wonder, and a book of poetry, The Other America, Otra America. In order to make the program appealing without an author visit, they have planned programs around the themes near and dear to Kingsolver: family, the intricacies of nature, the fragility of our environment, and the importance of telling stories.
"Together We Read" will hold its public kick-off ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 5, in the Carnegie Room at Lincoln Library, 326 S. Seventh St. City and village officials will be on hand, and a video about Barbara Kingsolver produced by PBS will be shown. Free Reader's Guides will be available which include information about the author, her work, and a schedule of programs planned through April 22.
Many individual and corporate sponsors, including Sam's Club and Barnes & Noble Booksellers, make the program possible. Barnes & Noble is offering a 20 percent discount on all Kingsolver titles.