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Continued: Building community through reading

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 21, 2014 - 1:44 PM

For Ziegler, that strikes a chord. “It seems to me that it behooves us to connect with the other ‘swimmers,’ ” she said.

The read-along is a means of “learning about ourselves,” she said. “I see that as a part of the mission, not only to read a quality piece of literature.”

Face-to-face interaction

Linda Eckman, who lives in Plymouth, is a book lover, so that’s what reeled her in to Plymouth Reads a couple of years ago.

She had so much fun that she instigated a Wayzata version of the communitywide read. She now leads the Friends of the Wayzata Library group.

In the coming months, as a part of the first year of Wayzata Reads, the crowd will read “The Lighthouse Road,” a novel by Peter Geye, a Minneapolis native.

The book, which is set in northern Minnesota in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, unfolds in a creative way, going back and forth in time. “It’s lovely, and it expands your horizons,” she said.

If her experience with ­Plymouth Reads is any indication, “I think this could work to bring people together for a good, smart reason,” she said.

That’s especially important given all of the talk about the lack of face-to-face interaction in this digital age, Eckman said.

For her, the biggest selling point is that it’s fun. A communal reading program gives people a chance to air their opinions about literature. It’s not connected to “battling a city issue or ... something political or religious,” she said.

Tackling social themes

However, a citywide reading program might take on social issues, depending on what’s happening in the community.

For example, a couple of years ago, Eden Prairie Reads read “Outcasts United,” by Warren St. John, about a Georgia town that saw an influx of refugees.

Joe Guttman, who chairs the program’s planning committee, said that it was relevant given the city’s changing demographics. “What struck me is that Eden Prairie is becoming a more diverse city. Some of my neighbors now are moving here as refugees,” he said.

For Guttman, the book was an eye-opener. It made him realize that “not everybody has a similar background to myself. There are some things I can see after living here for 25 years that I take for granted,” he said.

This year, the program’s read by Cheryl Strayed, who has ties to Minnesota, is challenging in a different way.

“Wild” recounts the author’s story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail as a young adult, after having “lost her way,” he said.

“Basically, she’s facing her fears and getting mentally and physically healthy again,” he said.

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