Imagine hundreds of Roswell residents sharing the experience of reading and discussing a common book and you have the essence of “Roswell Reads.” Based on the “One Book…One City” community reading programs that have swept across the country, “Roswell Reads” hopes to include book discussions, author events and more. Our ultimate goal [is] to encourage residents of all ages and interests to read, read, and then read some more.
One of the things I like best about being a resident of Roswell is the diverse cultural offerings. We have great city recreation programs (still on my to-do list), lots of festivals, and now, the whole city is getting together for “Roswell Reads.” The idea is that Roswell residents will vote for a book to read, as a city, by November 30. After the winning book is announced, city residents will have three months to read the book. Various book discussions (probably at local bookstores and the library) will take place during that time. Finally, the program will culminate in a dinner and book discussion led by the author. Of course, book selection may be contingent upon the availability of the author.
Our choices are (taken verbatim from the City of Roswell website):
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: In The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart’s answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. The Secret Life of Bees is a carefully crafted novel with an inspired depiction of character.
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: In his debut novel, The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini accomplishes what very few contemporary writers are able to do. He manages to provide an educational and eye-opening account of a country’s personal turmoil — Afghanistan — while also developing characters whose heartbreaking struggles and emotional triumphs resonate with readers long after the last page has been turned over. An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, The Kite Runner takes us from the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy to the atrocities of the present.
- The Year the Lights Came On by Terry Kay: A must-read for anyone who grew up in Georgia during the 1940s or ’50s, especially those of us who remember the day the Rural Electrification Administration hooked us up and turned us on. Life changed dramatically, as Terry Kay depicts in his novel. The book is hilarious at times, tender and sad at others. Kay blends a bittersweet brew of young love, class consciousness and changing times.
- Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam: Inspired by Werner Von Braun and his Cape Canaveral team, 14-year-old Homer Hickam decided in 1957 to build his own rockets. They were his ticket out of Coalwood, West Virginia, a mining town that everyone knew was dying — everyone except the mine superintendent, a man so dedicated that his family rarely saw him. Hickam grew up to be a NASA engineer and his memoir of the bumpy ride toward a gold medal at the National Science Fair in 1960 — an unprecedented honor for a miner’s kid — is rich in humor as well as warm sentiment. The portrait of his ultimately successful campaign to win his aloof father’s respect is equally affecting.
- My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult: The difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding in this 11th novel by Picoult. The author turns her gaze on genetic planning, the prospect of creating babies for health purposes and the ethical and moral fallout that results. Picoult ably explores a complex subject with bravado and comes up with a heart-wrenching, unexpected plot twist at the book’s conclusion.
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time by Mark Haddon: Mark Haddon’s bitterly funny debut novel is a mystery of sorts — one told by an autistic version of Adrian Mole. Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who barely cope with their child’s quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, unable to sort out the strange behavior of his elders and peers. The result [is] original and genuinely moving.
- All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg: Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg never forgets his roots. When he writes about death and violence in urban slums, Bragg draws on firsthand knowledge of how poverty deforms lives and on his personal belief in the dignity of poor people. His memoir of a hardscrabble Southern youth pays moving tribute to his indomitable mother and struggles to forgive his drunken father. All Over but the Shoutin’ is beautifully achieved on both these counts and many more.
- The Color of Water by James McBride: James McBride grew up one of 12 siblings in the all-black housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn, the son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white. The object of McBride’s constant embarrassment and continuous fear for her safety, his mother was an inspiring figure, who through sheer force of will saw her dozen children through graduate school. McBride was an adult before he discovered the truth about his mother: The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi in rural Virginia, she had run away to Harlem, married a black man, and founded an all-black Baptist church in her living room in Red Hook. In her son’s remarkable memoir, she tells in her own words the story of her past. Around her narrative, James McBride has written a powerful portrait of growing up, a meditation on race and identity, and a poignant, beautifully crafted hymn from a son to his mother.
I have to say that I am fairly impressed with the choices offered, and I intend to vote for The Kite Runner. I’ve heard great things about the book, and I think it would be interesting to read it like this. Even though I’ve read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I must say that I would really like the opportunity to hear Mark Haddon speak! I am really looking forward to participating in this program, and I’ll read whichever book is chosen. I think this is an excellent idea. I went to the library today and saw a young teen filling out the ballot to vote for the book. As an English teacher, this just thrills me to no end. Actually, I think I’ll put all these books on my to-read list (with the exception of The Curious Incident, which I’ve read).