When I first heard about Gwinnett Reads, I was like, “Really? Gwinnett reads? I knew Gwinnett watches football and obsesses about other people’s lawns and sits in traffic for two hours. But reads? Who knew?”
Of course I’m kidding. I know from personal experience that Gwinnett reads, because every time I go to the library to check out a newly released book, I end up 812th on the waiting list.
But I digress. I wanted to talk about Gwinnett Reads, a countywide program sponsored each fall by the Gwinnett County Public Libraries. The idea is that everybody in the county reads the same book at the same time, which means if you try to check it out of the library you’ll be 20,417th on the waiting list.
You can always buy the book, though, at Books for Less in Lawrenceville or Eagle Eye Bookshop in Decatur, neither of which is paying me to say that, even though I’m open to the idea.
After everyone has read the book, the program concludes with a public discussion and book signing by the author, usually held in some large and classy venue such as the Aurora Theater or Chuck-E-Cheese.
(Actually, I understand that GCPL tried Chuck-E-Cheese once but couldn’t pry a certain world-famous author away from the Whack-a-Mole.)
OK, the only true part of that last sentence is that, over the years, Gwinnett Reads has indeed featured some pretty famous authors, such as Rick Bragg (“All Over but the Shoutin’,” “Ava’s Man”) and Charles Frazier (“Cold Mountain”). This year’s selection is “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen, which spent several weeks atop the New York Times best-seller list.
The program culminates in an onstage interview with Gruen at the Aurora this Thursday evening. And as an added bonus — or not, depending on your point of view — I will be the one doing the interviewing. Doors open at 6:30 and will remain open, or at least unlocked from the inside, just in case you loved the book but find my questions annoying.
And you will love the book, believe me. I’ll be honest: I only started reading it last month because I knew I had to interview this nice lady in front of 250 people and I wanted at least to sound like I had, well, read the book. But within 20 pages, I was totally hooked.
Even more importantly, the story has stayed with me. Because that’s how I judge novels: Some are fun to read but infinitely forgettable, others difficult to get through but memorable. And a very few are a not only a delight while you’re reading them, but you also find yourself thinking about them for weeks afterward.
That’s how I would classify “Water for Elephants”: Hard to forget. Which is a good thing, because I have to talk about it in a few days.
Rob Jenkins is a free-lance writer who lives in Lawrenceville. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.