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June 1, 2007 2008 Reading Together Book Selection Announced

Marti Fritz
(269) 553-7879

Community-wide selection committee chooses Barbara Kingsolver's powerful and richly imagined novel: Animal Dreams.

Kalamazoo Public Library, 315 S. Rose St., announces the selection of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams as the 2008 “Reading Together” title. Reading Together invites people of all ages from all walks of life to read and then discuss important issues raised by a single book. Thousands of county residents have participated in the five previous Reading Together programs.

Kalamazoo Public Library leads Reading Together with the collaboration of libraries, educational institutions, health and social service agencies, cultural, civic and religious organizations, businesses, the media, and local governments throughout Kalamazoo County.

The Kalamazoo Community Foundation helped the library launch Reading Together with funding for the first three years with grants from their "Better Together" initiative. Two years ago, the library's Board of Trustees appropriated funding from KPL's operating budget for Reading Together. While Kalamazoo Public Library now provides major support for the program, foundation grants, gifts and contributions from collaborating organizations make it possible for KPL to offer Reading Together to all of Kalamazoo County.

Reading Together programming, including book discussions and a variety of special events, will take place in January and February 2008. A Kalamazoo visit by author Kingsolver has been proposed but has not yet been confirmed.

For the second time, this year's community read title was selected before summer break, when many teachers prepare their curricula and lesson plans for the next academic year.

A committee of twenty-five community leaders, representing local high schools and colleges, libraries, bookstores, book clubs, civic and social service organizations, media outlets, and various religious denominations, selected Animal Dreams. The committee set several goals as they deliberated on the list of proposed titles for the 2008 title. They sought a multifaceted book that featured beautiful prose on a new topic; that would attract the broadest possible audience, including groups not previously involved; that offered a direct connection to current events in the region; written by an author available to visit Kalamazoo.

“The selection committee felt that Animal Dreams would bring new participants into a widening Reading Together network, sparking important conversations about Hispanic and Native American culture, environmental degradation, eldercare, and the individual's responsibility for the common good,” says program coordinator Joan Hawxhurst. “The book's blending of Native American legends, a silent environmental catastrophe, and vivid Southwestern landscapes with a main character that is questioning her identity, falling in love, and caring for a father in the early throes of Alzheimer's disease, opens doors to many levels of discussion about important issues facing our community.”

Beginning in the fall of 2007, copies of Animal Dreams will be available at all Kalamazoo Public Library locations and at other libraries and bookstores throughout the county. More information about a potential Kingsolver visit will also be released in the fall.

About the Book Selection Process

This year's book selection process continued the Reading Together tradition of democratic community participation. Twenty-five community members were invited to serve on the selection committee and to offer their book suggestions. A list of 85 titles was compiled from: suggestions from library patrons and staff solicited over the library website and at all KPL locations, suggestions gathered from last year's evaluation process, librarian and educator recommendations, other communities' reading program selections, and suggestions from community leaders. When the Reading Together selection criteria were applied, a short-list of 22 titles emerged.

The committee members gathered for two hours of intense discussion on May 15 and afterward voted on the list of 22 books. When the votes were tallied, one book emerged as the clear favorite of the committee. Library staff then contacted Kingsolver about visiting and confirmed that multiple editions of her novel would be available from book vendors.

The initial list of 85 titles, with the short-list of 22 highlighted, will be available on the Reading Together website.

About Animal Dreams

“Animals dream about the things they do in the day time just like people do. If you want sweet dreams, you've got to live a sweet life.” So says Loyd Peregrina, a handsome Apache trainman and latter-day philosopher. But when Codi Noline returns to her hometown, Loyd's advice is painfully out of her reach. Dreamless and at the end of her rope, Codi comes back to Grace, Arizona, to confront her past and face her ailing, distant father. What she finds is a town threatened by a silent environmental catastrophe, some startling clues to her own identity, and a man whose view of the world could change the course of her life. Blending flashbacks, dreams, and Native American legends, Animal Dreams is a suspenseful love story and a moving exploration of life's largest commitments.

Animal Dreams was awarded the Pen/USA West Fiction Award and the Edward Abbey Award for Ecofiction, and it was named an American Library Association Notable Book, the Arizona Library Association Book of the Year, and a New York Times Notable Book.

About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver's twelve books of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction include the novels The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible. Kingsolver writes entertaining, plot-driven stories rich in symbolism, literary innovation, and social commentary. In 2007, she released her first full-length narrative non-fiction, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She has contributed to dozens of literary anthologies, and her reviews and articles have appeared in most major U.S. newspapers and magazines. Translated into nineteen languages, her work has won a devoted worldwide readership and many awards, including the National Humanities Medal, our nation's highest honor for service through the arts.