It’s time to get reading, Wichita.
One of my favorite events of the year kicks off this weekend – the Wichita Big Read – and I hope you’ll join me and many of our neighbors as we savor the joy of sharing a good book.
This year’s book, “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea, is a story about journeys and courage and family and culture. It’s funny. It’s sad.
And it’s a brave, modern selection that I’m thrilled to endorse personally and professionally as a part of this year’s Big Read. It’s the right book at the right time for Wichita.
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If you’re not familiar with the Big Read, here’s the deal: It’s a communal reading experience, like a citywide book club, hosted by the Wichita Public Library in cooperation with the National Endowment of the Arts. Big Reads happen all over the country, with books ranging from “The Poetry of Emily Dickinson” to “Old School” by Tobias Wolff.
Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 15, everyone in town will read the same book. Pick up a copy at the library or at Saturday’s Big Read pre-party at the Wichita Art Museum. Get your friends and family to get copies, too – there are four companion books for young readers – and throughout October, you can ask one another the Big Read’s big question:
“What page are you on?”
There’s something magical about reading a great book, the kind you stay up half the night to read or call in sick the next morning to finish. (Not that I’m encouraging anyone to call in sick. But I’d consider it an excused absence.) You’re sad when you get to the last page. You look for more books by the same author. You can’t wait to talk about it with your friends.
My children felt that way about Junie B. Jones and Harry Potter when they were younger. I felt that way last winter when I devoured “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” in one day and thought about rereading it the next day. My 17-year-old daughter loves “Night,” Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir, which she’s read a half-dozen times, and my son still points to Matt Myklusch’s Jack Blank trilogy as his all-time favorite books.
Maybe we’ll feel that way about “Into the Beautiful North.”
Once you secure your copy of the book and start reading, be sure to grab your calendar. The library will host several events centered around the novel’s themes of immigration and culture. Among them:
▪ Migration of the Monarchs: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 26, Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. North. A celebration of the annual migration of the monarch butterfly, including a presentation by naturalist Jim Mason, butterfly face-painting and more.
▪ Day of the Dead Celebration: 1-3 p.m. Oct. 17, Mid-America All-Indian Center, 650 N. Seneca. Learn about the Day of the Dead and how it is celebrated by Native Americans and in Mexican culture. Make your own sugar skull.
▪ Suzanne’s Big Read Book Club: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 20, Rockwell branch library, 5939 E. Ninth St. I’m honored to be part of this year’s Big Read, hosting an informal discussion of the book’s major themes at my neighborhood branch library. You’ll need to register ahead of time for this event by calling the library; registration begins Oct. 6.
▪ Evening with the Author: 7-9 p.m. Nov. 7, Wichita State Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 5015 E. 29th St. North. The exciting finale of this year’s Big Read will be a lecture and book-signing by Louis Alberto Urrea.
If you go
Wichita Big Read pre-party
What: Kickoff for the eighth annual Big Read, which will include mariachi music, refreshments and giveaways of this year’s book, “Into the Beautiful North,” by Luis Alberto Urrea
When: 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.
How much: Free