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Books: Let the Summer Reading Challenge begin

Welcome to the fifth year of the Summer Reading Challenge.
With the anniversary comes opportunity, first, the chance to read books you might not pick up otherwise. Second, a night to get together to hear author John Hart and several other panelists talk about the books.
And third, a chance to make the sixth year something new.
Barbara Setzer and her Libretto Book Club have been the moving force, indeed, the founding force of the challenge. Barbara, her book club, her husband, Dave, Anne Scott Clement and Waterworks Visual Arts Center, and a few others have been doing all the work, meaning everything from picking the books to designing the announcement cards to sending out 850 of those cards, to writing letters to asking for sponsors to support the effort, to asking for speakers, to …
Well, it’s a lot. Barbara takes off November and December, but starts in January to plan the event that culminates in October. The selections this year include John Hart’s “The Last Child”; “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey,” by Candice Millard; “In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars” by Kevin Sites; and “What is the What,” by Dave Eggers.
As the community reads the books, Barbara hopes they’ll be willing to get more involved.
She wants the community to rise to the challenge, so to speak.
When she started this whole undertaking, she had been retired for a year and was looking for somthing to do. She volunteered as a docent at Waterworks and was trying to to get more people to come to the center.
It worked. Now, she thinks it’s time to get other people involved.
“I didn’t even get to go last year,” she says, laughing. She missed the October discussion because she’d broken her leg.
“I talked to my book club, and I said, ‘Let’s let this baby grow up.’
“I’ve talked to Rowan Public Library and the Friends of the Library, Jeff Hall and Fran Burding, about taking it over. Waterworks would be the administrator and then the presidents of the book clubs in the area would make up the committee to select books and plan the event.
“This would be impossible without sponsors,” she says, “like the Salisbury Post, Trinity Oaks, the library, the colleges, Deal Safrit, F&M Bank.”
The Post writes about the books and advertises the panel discussion. Trinity Oaks has provided for the reception, the library makes sure to have the books available, Deal Safrit of Literary Book Post orders books and makes a donation, F&M Bank offers the use of the trolley barn, and Waterworks, as a non-profit, allows the challenge to operate under its umbrella.
“Waterworks is what’s called our funding steward. All the bills and all the money go through a special account set up for the challenge through Waterworks.”
Miller Davis Agency has provided a stage, sound and lighting equipment, splitting the cost with the group.
“I’ll be happy to help,” Barbara says, “but it’s time for more people to get involved.”
For the last two summers, a small committee has selected the books.
For 2009, the theme is “Stories of Courage.” The first book selected was, naturally, Hart’s tale of a courageous boy. It’s wonderful to have the author speak to the readers.
The other work of fiction is “What is the What,” a nearly-true story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Author Dave Eggers lets a boy tell about his excruciating walk across southern Sudan to refugee camps in Ethiopia and his experiences once he comes to America with hundreds of other Lost Boys.Vivian Mathewson, an assistant professor of English at Livingstone College and a long-time public school educator, will discuss “What is the What.”
“River of Doubt,” a true story of Roosevelt’s harrowing journey along the Amazon following his 1912 election loss, will be discussed by Gary Freeze, professor of history at Catawba College.
And for another dose of reality, “In the Hot Zone” is a freelance reporter’s story of the wars he has covered. The Post’s publisher, Greg Anderson, will talk about reporter Kevin Sites’ experiences. “In the Hot Zone” is also the book chosen for Catawba College’s freshman reading experience.
John Whitfield, an avid reader who had a career in mental health, will be the panel moderator.
Barbara’s mantra, which is excellent advice, is “Whether you read all the books, some of the books or none of the books,” you will enjoy the panel discussion.
Hart’s book, which is No. 17 on the New York Times Bestseller list this week, was reviewed in the Post on May 3.
“What is the What” isn’t an easy read, but it is fascinating, frightening and humbling. Reading about the plight of those boys will make your problems seem insignificant. It will be reviewed here in the next couple of weeks.
Start reading.
Contact Deirdre Parker Smith at dp1@salisburypost.com

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