Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Big Three announcement

[gary daily col. 2 Feb. 3, 2002]

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."
-- Mark Twain

For those who couldn’t make it to the Vigo County Public Library Brown Bag unveiling of the exciting “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book” program this past Thursday, here’s the big book news from the unveiling. The program committee described the project and announced the three books it is asking the readers in the community to read in the next two months. From the three books chosen by the If All selection committee, one will be voted as THE book All of Vigo County will be reading and talking about. The three books are: Kent Haruf’s Plainsong; David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars; and Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tucson.

Who votes? Readers in the county. Other cities and counties have started programs similar to Vigo County’s If All, but this is the only one in the entire nation where readers choose THE book.

Reading groups, local organizations and individuals will have the opportunity to cast their votes for one of the three books. Ballots are available and ballot boxes are set up in the library and other public locations in and around Terre Haute. (Call Chris Schellenberg, Community Services, VCPL, if you’re interested in setting up an If All ballot box.)

Many people are asking how The Big Three books in the If All program were chosen. It’s a good question, and one providing an opportunity to recognize the dedicated and innovative work of an unsung group in our community over a long period of time.

The 2002 If All book selection committee emerged out of a core of people that has been in existence since 1991. Working through VCPL, this group organized themselves for the purpose of stimulating public book discussions and bringing authors of distinguished books of fiction and non-fiction to the Terre Haute area. Their first year’s project featured mysteries and mystery writers--thus they labeled themselves the “Murder Madams.” Sara Paretsky, the highly acclaimed author of the V. I. Warshawski series was their first visiting author.

The “Murder Madams” moniker stuck. We can thank the Murder Madams good work (as well as the unstinting support of VCPL’s “The Friends of the Library”) for bringing to Terre Haute in the past two years such nationally acclaimed authors as Pope Brock, Lorna Landvik and Clyde Edgerton.

And it was the Murder Madams that brought Jane Hamilton, the twice-honored Oprah author, to the Vigo County Public Library. This recognition of Hamilton occurred a year before Oprah was picking books and authors for national recognition.

Not surprisingly, the Murder Madams decided an “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book” program offered the community potential rewards worth the demanding effort such an ambitious and audacious project deserves. Their first step was to add members to the selection committee from the community. It was this expanded Murder Madams committee that chose High Tide in Tucson, Plainsong, and Snow Falling on Cedars as the three books the readers of Vigo County will consider when casting their votes.

Having served on the selection committee, I can note without fear of contradiction that making these choices was very difficult. Our decisions were far from unanimous. All members, however, agreed that we had chosen three books notable for their readability, artistic merit, and discussable themes and ideas.

Did the committee come up with good choices?

That’s for you to decide. Read and discuss these books and let your friends, acquaintances, the selection committee, and me know how you feel about the Kingsolver, Haruf, and Guterson books.

Do this and we will all be closer to finding out what the IF, in “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book,” can really mean.

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