What's in a Name?
Christie Hinrichs, Director 

Contrary to what many Common Reads coordinators assume, a famous author doesn't always ensure a program's success. Librarians who rely on circulation numbers are often missing out on up-and-coming titles. University administrators who require a book-to-film component are underestimating their readers. Most importantly, venues that insist on visiting authors with household name recognition are possibly paying far more than necessary to meet their program goals. 

Faced with these challenges, we've seen a huge number of new clients looking to Books In Common for help. When we begin working with a venue, we always ask the same question - what are your goals? Trying to fill all the seats in your auditorium? We help venues secure authors that draw hundreds of participants, at a fraction of the cost they'd expect. Are you hoping to engage new or reluctant readers to your program? Most venues don't have the budget for the level of celebrity that would wow the average patron, so picking a title with themes/interests appealing to a majority of folks is far more important than author name recognition. 
A Look At: Point Loma Nazarene, Writer's Symposium by the Sea

Would you tell us a bit about your program?  For instance how long has Point Loma Nazarene been hosting the Symposium by the Sea, how did it get started, and how has it changed over the years?
The Writer's Symposium By The Sea is in its 21st year (next one is Feb. 16-19, 2016), and it started when I invited the local writer Joseph Wambaugh to come to campus to talk about writing. He didn't want to give a talk, but said he'd answer questions. So I worked up an interview with him, got UCSD to broadcast it, and invited the public. It was a huge success, so we kept that format and added some workshops during the day. Now it's a 3-to-4-day event and it's a huge deal for both the campus and the community. People from the East Coast come to attend, although that may have something to do with it being February in Southern California!
What makes this event special?
What makes this event special is the interview format. Writers don't come and give talks or readings. They answer questions about their work and the craft of writing. I think it's more interesting to the audience that way. And it's usually a lot funnier!
A Look At: Fort Worth Library's Inaugural Common Reads Prog.

Can you describe a literary program that you've done to bridge diversity in your community?

In 2013, we shifted our summer reading program into ayear-round reading program, Worth Reading. We partnerwith community organizations and the local school districtto bring a variety of programs and events to ourcommunity in our library branches and other communityvenues such as local museums. By sharing programsthroughout the city, we bring diverse groups together. Wealso host programs like our annual Jazz Series and classicalconcerts with the Cliburn Foundation to bring people whodon't traditionally use the library into our buildings to seewhat the library has to offer. We hope that our new AuthorSeries will also promote diversity of voices in literature.

Your library hosts several literary-themed programs geared toward children, such as summer reading, story time, and family reading time. How have you seen this focus on early literacy enhance your community?

Our Worth Reading program aims to get everyone in Fort Worth reading, learning and having fun - all year long. We know that early literacy is the key to success in school and into adulthood. We also include the Every Child Ready to Read parent education initiative into all of our story time programs. We believe teaching primary caregivers how to incorporate reading skills is essential to building great kids. Our library also has Early Childhood Resource Centers to help families learn how to develop their children's social, emotional and pre-literacy skills so they are successful when entering kindergarten.

We also have a great mayor and city council that support the library and work to publicize our initiatives. It has been wonderful to see them at events and talking about the library and its effect on the community whenever they can.
Author Interview: Matt Richtel

Matt Richtel
What do you like about the Common Reads structure as a literary event format, and how do you think Deadly Wandering resonates with community members? 
What I love about the format is that community reads inspires one of the most powerful influences in our lives: informed conversation and debate. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this sort of group interaction is the essence of community and even democracy. We live in an era where we can become isolated by our own media habits and preferences. Common read is an antidote to that, and, when the book is provocative and entertaining, it can be fun, resonant, an experience to create not just conversation and community but even solutions to tough issues.
In that spirit, I firmly hope that A Deadly Wandering will draw people into a thrilling story and then get them talking and debating about issues that are impacting every one of us every day. On its face, the story is about a deadly, mysterious car crash caused by a texting driver. As a starting point, the book offers a powerful cautionary tale for readers of all ages about the risks of multitasking. 
But the topics in the book expand well beyond texting and driving to describe the way heavy technology use impacts our brains and behavior, the way we learn and how we relate in our jobs and families. Over and over, I've heard from readers that this is a book that touched them deeply, pulled back the curtain on the impact of technology, and that sparked conversations with friends and family about how to find a balance with the electronic gadgets that have become so central to our lives.  
Both your fiction and non-fiction books are based on technology and its effects within society. Although technology is constantly evolving, what teachable moments do you emphasize that remain timeless?
One of the most valuable lessons that I've learned - and that I work hard to impart when I speak - is about the value of focus and attention. There is a solid argument to be made that our capacity to focus and sustain our attention is one of the singularly important human traits. Plainly, it separates us from animals. This incredible capacity to focus is also under constant duress, even unprecedented attack.
In what I hope is entertaining fashion (with funny and accessible anecdotes) I outline how our attention networks work, how they can be overtaken by technology and how we can take back our focus and attention so that we can become as effective as possible in our work efforts and as
connected as possible in our interpersonal ones. 
I can't emphasize this latter point enough: little in the world is as enduring and timeless as our human connections with each other. Our electronic gadgets can assist in these connections but also diminish them if we are not judicious with our technology use.
Author Interview: Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott
What are some of the "teachable" moments in your book that make it work well for a Community Reads program?
One of my main goals in writing Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy was to highlight forgotten heroines of the Civil War, on both sides of the conflict. History is usually written by, for, and about men, and I think it's important to explore women's impact and contributions, which are so often overlooked or dismissed. My book delves into all aspects of women's lives during the Civil War. 

They had to get used to the sudden absence of fathers and husbands and brothers and sons, to the idea that things would never be as they had been. They had no vote, no straightforward access to political discourse, no influence in how the battles were waged. Instead they took control of homes, businesses, and plantations. They formed aid societies and held bazaars to raise money for soldiers. They even served as informal recruiting officers, urging men to enlist and humiliating them if they demurred. 

And some, privately or publicly with shrewd caution or gleeful abandon, chafed at the limitations society set for them and determined to change the course of the war. In my book I tell the story of four such women, spotlighting not only their contributions to the war (daring espionage exploits, participating in bloody battles, lobbying European royalty) but also how their actions fueled the evolving campaigns for suffrage and women's rights.

What do you think of the Community Reads structure as a literary event format?

In our quick fix, soundbite-driven, 140-character culture, I am deeply appreciative of any program that encourages people to take the time to read and to engage in discussion about books. I think it's a brilliant format. 

Would you share some notable experiences you've had at author events that you've participated in?
I love connecting with readers and hearing their own (occasionally scandalous!) stories. With Sin in the Second City, people would tell me about ancestors who were part of the 19th Century Chicago political machine, or who operated a saloon in the vice district or, more than once, who worked in a "house of ill repute." With American Rose, one elderly gentleman approached me and said that he had seen Gypsy Rose Lee perform in 1935. "She took 15 minutes to peel off a single glove," he recalled, "and she
was so damned good at it I gladly would've given her 15 more." 

And with Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, numerous people have shared their ancestors' Civil War experiences; I've heard tales of generals' triumphs, wives' heartbreaks; soldiers' post-war hardships; and of course a few intriguing anecdotes about women spies.
Highlights from:   
BIC-Supported Events
Anthony Doerr at a university in Ohio
Anthony Doerr gets high praise all around. He gave the best author talk I have ever heard and I have heard many, many author talks. He is genuine, enthusiastic, unpretentious, and gracious. In fact, he could be on the author circuit forever, but then he wouldn't have a chance to write more, and we readers want him to write more. 
---Margaret Simon, PR Coordinator

Regina Calcaterra at a college in Kansas
Regina was AMAAAAAAAA-ZING! At every turn, she was kind, thoughtful, and generous. Thank you for helping us connect with her. 
---Marissa King, Director of FYE Program

John Lewis (with Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell) 
at a college in New York 
Faculty, students, administrators, and staff enjoyed immensely the presentation by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Students have been enthusiastic about the presentation, and faculty tell me it was the best one we've had. The presentations were all excellent, and the answers to student questions were very complete and clear, even when a question was a bit fuzzy. The authors also signed books graciously and were generous with their time and attention to all during lunch. 
---Kathleen Conway, Event Coordinator

Susan Vreeland at a library in Michigan
Susan did a beautiful job weaving the artwork into her story and presentation. It was not only an opportunity to hear about the book and how she came about writing it, but she also taught us so much about writing and art. Her former teacher background was excellent. She has an awesome sense of humor. In light of the events in Paris, Susan incorporated a moment of silence with French music - a great touch to the event. ---Julie Farkas, Library Director

Garth Stein at a Community Reads event in New Brunswick, Canada
Garth's talk this morning went great! He's awesome. Thanks so much for helping me organize this. It was very well received by the high school audience and many more book clubs and community members were there too. Tons and tons of questions! 
---Sarah Kimball, Event Organizer 
Book Reviews

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
What does an octopus think when it meets a human? In The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery draws us into the mysterious, alien world of the octopus and the life-changing relationships these creatures can have with the scientists, aquarium keepers, and writers who care for them. From an Iranian expat who found his passion caring for sea creatures, to a young teen dealing with loss and Asperger's, to a writer amazed at each octopus's individual personality, to readers meeting these creatures vicariously through the page, the encounter with each octopus's intelligence, courage, and soulfulness challenges us to rethink what we assume about our own souls, human nature, communications, and the world around us.
A 2015 National Book Award finalist for nonfiction, The Soul of an Octopus is accessible to teens and aspiring middle-grade readers with its vivid descriptions of sea creatures and their antics, but provides plenty of serious material for adults and college students considering Montgomery's deeper questions and implications; truly a book for all ages! The rich potential for tie-in programs on marine life, aquariums, cross-cultural communications, and community volunteering can draw in reluctant readers and encourage them to participate in local events and community institutions. The encounter with the octopus is one from which all readers come away enriched by a growing appreciation for the friendship, intelligence, and perhaps even souls that both humans and octopuses share. This book has much to teach us about diversity, learning from our differences, and how we interact and communicate with peoples-and species-that are different from ourselves. 
"But to me, Athena was more than an octopus. She was an individual - who I liked very much - and also, possibly, a portal. She was leading me to a new way of thinking about thinking, of imagining what other minds might be like. And she was enticing me to explore, in a way I never had before, my own planet - a world of mostly water, which I hardly knew." ---Sy Montgomery

Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse
When your mother's motto is "At least it's never boring," you know you're in for a rough ride. In his memoir Take This Man, Pen/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse tells the story of a childhood defined by five stepfathers, an opinionated grandmother, and a dysfunctional Hispanic mother who reinvented herself as a Native American. With wry humor and insight, this coming-of-age story takes us into the culture of inner-city Los Angeles in the '90s and the American tradition of reinventing identities. 
Common Reads Programs will find this book appeals to a wide range of readers, including young men, teens, and adults. As a college professor at Wesleyan University, Brando makes instant connections with students and speaks to high school/college students' experiences, struggles, and questions. Take This Man's refreshing honesty also provides an opportunity for tie-ins and discussions around family relationships and communications, dealing with dysfunctional families, and overcoming the past to build new families.

The Books In Common Newsletter
January 2016
Matt Richtel
author of A Deadly Wandering
In This Issue
Stay Connected

Check out these Upcoming Events Arranged by  
Books In Common
February 4th, 2016
Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One, at a university in Texas

February 6th, 2016 
Forrest Pritchard, author of Gaining Ground, at a symposium in Georgia

February 18th, 2016
Mitchell Zuckoff, author of 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, at a symposium in Florida

February 25th, 2016
Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, at a Common Reads Program in Ohio

February 25th, 2016
Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram For The King: A Novel at a literary festival in Texas

March 2nd, 2016 
Leonard Pitts, author of Grant Park, at a college in Washington, D.C.

March 3rd, 2016
Molly Gloss, author of Falling From Horses: A Novel, at a Common Reads Program in Arizona

March 4th, 2016
Karen Abbott, author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, at a literary symposium in California
March 4th, 2016
David Scheff, author of Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy, at a symposium in Arizona

March 5th, 2016
James Edward Mills, author of Adventure Gap, at a university in Colorado 

March 6th, 2016
Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Race for Paris, at a library in Florida

March 8th, 2016
Denise Kiernan, author of The Girls of Atomic City, at a conference in New York

March 9th, 2016
Ron Rash, author of Above the Waterfall, at a Common Reads Program in Kentucky

March 9th, 2016
Garth Stein, author of Sudden Light, at a school in Connecticut

March 22nd, 2016
Regina Calcaterra, author of Etched in Sand, at a symposium in New York 

March 30th, 2016
Laura McBride, author of We are Called to Rise, at a college in Connecticut