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Summer Reading Challenge 2008 begins

By Deirdre Parker Smith
Salisbury Post
The theme for the Summer Reading Challenge 2008 is “Prose and Politics” in recognition of this election year.
For the fourth year of the challenge, members of the Libretto Book Club have chosen four books, two fiction and two nonfiction, to reflect the political season. In addition to the books, participants will also have the chance to see Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man,” performed by St. Thomas Players.The books are “The Appeal,” by John Grisham; “The Zero Game,” by Brad Meltzer; “Black Men Built the Capitol” by Jesse J. Holland; and “Divided America” by Earl Black and Merle Black.
Dr. Michael Bitzer, assistant professor of political science at Catawba College, will lead a discussion group on “Divided America,” reading the book together. Bitzer teaches the book in a course at Catawba. The group will meet Tuesdays, July 8, 15 and 22, at Waterworks Visual Arts Center at 7 p.m.
Bitzer will also serve on the panel that talks about the books at the wrap-up session in October.
“Divided America” is the story behind the emergence of a ferocious power struggle between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats that continues to rage.
“The Appeal” highlights the underbelly of today’s politics. As long as private money is allowed in judicial elections, we will see competing interests fight for seats on the bench. Grisham is known for his fast-paced novels.
“The Zero Game” has been described as “rip-roaring.” With boredom and burnout threatening Capitol Hill, staffers join a secret government administrative procedure as the basis for placing bets. The game turns deadly as its players become pawns. Meltzer’s novels have been on the New York Times bestseller list.
Less well-known, perhaps, is “Black Men Built the Capital,” which tells the story of African- Americans who built the monuments that make Washington Washington. Packed with archival photos of construction, the book answers many questions.
The challenge will culminate Oct. 16, starting at 6:30 p.m. with a reception and forum at Waterworks Visual Arts Center and the F&M Trolley Barn. Trinity Oaks Retirement Center will provide refreshments.
Dr. M.J. Simms Maddox, professor of political science at Livingstone College, will be the panel moderator. Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, professor of history at Norfolk State University in Virginia, will return to discuss “Black Men Built the Capitol.” She was an impressive part of the 2007 panel, discussing “The Known World,” by Edward Jones.
Dr. Janice M. Fuller, writer in residence and professor of English at Catawba College, will discuss “The Appeal” and “The Zero Game.”
As part of this year’s challenge, the drama troupe of the Center for Faith and the Arts will present the political drama, “The Best Man,” at 7:30 p.m. June 18-21 and June 25-28 at the Florence Busby Corriher Theater at Catawba College. Tickets are $10.
Barbara Setzer, who has spearheaded the Summer Reading Challenge since its inception, doesn’t want people to be scared away by the political tone of these selections. “Whether you read all of the books or some of the books or none of the books, you’re welcome to come to the program in October.”
Setzer and members of the Libretto Book Club want to inspire discussion of different ideas and viewpoints before the 2008 election, which has already provoked divisive debate.
Sponsors for the challenge are Waterworks Visual Arts Center, F&M Bank, The Salisbury Post, Trinity Oaks Retirement Center, Catawba College, Friends of Rowan Public Library, Livingstone College, Miller Davis Agency, Rowan Regional Medical Center, Heather St. Aubin-Stout ó Loft 130, Literary Bookpost, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, with additional support from Marathon Business Center-Xerox, Center for Faith & the Arts and Godley’s Garden Center.
So get started now. “The Appeal” is a great beach read. Take advantage of the reading group for “Divided America,” follow the thrills and chills in “The Zero Game” and learn about a neglected part of history in “Black Men Built the Capitol.”

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