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Thursday, February 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A&E >  Books

Visiting authors dominate Spokane library checkouts in 2019

More than 1,000 Spokane residents visited the island of Aeaea in 2019. No one was reported to have been turned into a pig.

“Circe” – a book that explores the perspective of a witch-goddess who appears in Homer’s “Odyssey” – was the area’s most circulated library book in 2019, with 961 checkouts in the Spokane Public Library and 563 in the Spokane County Library District.

Being selected as the 2019 Spokane Is Reading book moved “Circe” to the top of the charts for both library systems.

Except for the second year of the program, every other author behind the Spokane Is Reading book has come to visit since the program’s 2002 inception. Madeline Miller, who wrote “Circe,” visited Spokane to discuss her book on Oct. 24.

Eva Silverstone, an art education specialist at the Spokane Public Library who serves on the Spokane is Reading committee, said anticipating an author’s visit helps get people excited about the program.

“It was one of the best received years that we’ve had,” Silverstone said. “When we announced the book, people were so excited, and it was really fun. A lot of people were really excited because they had read her first book, ‘The Song of Achilles.’ ”

Silverstone said a benefit of the program – which was inspired by a similar program in Seattle called Seattle Reads, established by well-known librarian Nancy Pearl – is that it exposes people to books they might not pick up on their own. (Pearl has been part of The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club twice in the past two years. First in 2018 to talk about her book “George & Lizzie” with Spokane author Sharma Shields, then in 2019 to talk with Shield’s about her novel “The Cassandra.”)

“One of the goals of the program is to get adults reading,” Silverstone said. “Unfortunately, there are what we call lapsed readers. Sometimes when you get out of college, you had to read constantly. You get your first job, and reading maybe takes a back seat to some of life’s other responsibilities.”

The second book in line, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” was checked out a combined 1,048 times, despite being published in 2018. Author Delia Owens visited the Spokane Public Library’s downtown location on March 16, and Silverstone said the room was at capacity.

The memoir “Educated,” by Tara Westover, made the library’s top 10 list. Westover’s account of her survivalist childhood was the No. 1 circulated nonfiction book for Spokane County and the No. 2 book – beaten out by Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” – for the Spokane Public Library.

Sheri Boggs, Spokane County Library youth collection development librarian, sees a commonality between Westover’s and Owens’ books.

“I wonder how much the emphasis on the natural world has to do with it,” Boggs said. “Both are women’s stories where they’re very much either coming from a place of being really involved in the natural world or entering a place, but they’re really involved with the natural world.”

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