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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
I like to read (07/26/2006)
By Frances Edstrom

I didn't know, sitting in the first grade classroom, looking longingly at the letters of the alphabet tacked up around the room, that when I learned to unlock the secret of those letters and their intricate relationship to each other, I would have my key to an exciting and satisfying life. At the age of five, the future I could envision stretched perhaps to my birthday or to Christmas morning. I didn't see a time when I would sneak a book under the covers and read by flashlight instead of getting a "good night's sleep." I didn't picture my future self sobbing as she finished Little Women while lounging on the top bunk. I didn't see high school English class with Mr. Hottleman, who introduced me to the complexities of the written word, and taught me how to be a discerning reader. College was not yet a formed thought. I didn't know how cozy life can be cuddled up with your children, reading them a book. That my life would rely on the written word might have been a paralyzing thought that first day of school. And I certainly wouldn't have thought there would be a time that I would be a middle-aged woman with no hip joint, consigned to a sickbed. (I did actually wonder if I would live to see the change of the century.) But here I am. My sister visits the public library for me, and friends have kept me supplied with a steady stream of good books. What would I do without the ability to read? How would I fill the long hours during which I used to work at a job, take care of a house and family, socialize, and generally be mobile?

I can't imagine what this life would be if I lived in a world without books. I can go with Joyce Carol Oates to the Niagara Falls of the middle twentieth century. Sara Gruen takes me to the circus during the Depression in Water for Elephants. I am teleported to a Bangladesh immigrant's house in London in Zadie Smith's "White Teeth." I can indulge in the guilty pleasure of any number of whodunits and thrillers. As I look at my table full of books, I can anticipate the pleasant hours I will spend with Fannie Flagg's characters in "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven." I love to read. Lucky for me and other readers, there is a group of people in Winona for whom reading is a pleasure to be shared. They are preparing to launch their third annual Winona Reads, a communitywide book selection and discussion.

The group is made up of members of AAUW, Friends of the Winona Public Library, the library itself, and Dist. 861 Community Education. They have chosen four titles from which the community will select by vote this year's Winona Reads book. Vicki Englich was kind enough to share those titles and the schedule of events. We will be invited to vote during September, when the hectic summer schedule has abated. Ballots will appear in the newspapers, and will be available at Blue Heron, Mugby Junction, local book stores and the library. The winning selection will be announced in October, and the Friends of the Library will order a number of paperback copies for sale. I imagine the book stores will as well. Then individuals and book clubs are urged to read and discuss the book. The effort will culminate in two public discussions to be held in January.

Sneak peek!

The titles are: "March" by Geraldine Brooks, a fictional take on the father who is away at the Civil War in the Louisa May Alcott classic Little Women; "The Painted Drum" by Louise Erdrich, a novel by the provocative writer of many Native American-centered works; "His Excellency: George Washington" by Joseph J. Ellis, a biography of the "Foundingest Father of them all," as the author says; and finally, "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder, a nonfiction work on the life of Paul Farmer, a leader in international health delivery. Sharpen up those pencils, and watch these pages during September for your chance to be a part of Winona Reads. 


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