For the past eight years, the Pierce County Library system has been taking book clubs to the next level by offering their Pierce County Reads program.
This isn’t your momma’s neighborhood wine and cheese book club, instead, the library picks one feature book/author each year that patrons from all over the county read, and come together to have in-depth, engaging discussions with each other and the author.
Over the years the library has chosen authors like Alexander McCall Smith of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency fame, and The Big Burn author, Timothy Egan. This year’s author is Native American writer and poet, Sherman Alexie.
“He’s not the most comfortable writer we could have chosen,” said Linda Farmer, communication director for the library. “He’s controversial, he speaks his mind, and that could have been a little scary. But as a library we embrace the free-flow of information and ideas and we are really looking forward to the conversation this choice should produce.”
Despite the program being in place for nearly a decade, Farmer said Pierce County Reads is experiencing a lot of firsts in 2016 including a new online blog for discussion the virtual world, and a live stream of the capstone event at branches in Bonney Lake, Key Center, and Orting. However, none of these firsts are quite as surprising as the library choosing five books instead of the requisite one.
“This year we’ve broken all the rules, we’ve (told the patrons to) read five books,” Farmer said. “We just found Sherman Alexie so interesting and such a master storyteller that we deiced to choose five of his most notable works.”
These works include: Flight, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, Reservation Blues, and War Dances.
Farmer said that while the program has been extended by four weeks to accommodate the additional reading material, patrons are under no obligation to read all five works.
This works out well because the books are already flying off the shelves faster than any of the other Pierce County Reads books in recent history. In the first week alone, nearly a quarter of the library’s print collection had already been checked out and within two weeks every Overdrive e-book had been checked out.
“We stocked up on a lot more e-books this year because print circulation is leveling off but e-book circulation is going up,” Farmer said. “We use a program called overdrive, they can choose Kindle or they can read it as a PDF.”
Beginning in March the library will sponsor many free events surrounding the themes and issues in Alexie’s works. These events will culminate in the capstone discussion and book signing event with Alexie himself on April 29 at 7 p.m. in the McGavick Conference Center at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood.