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Nineteen towns coming together for Lakes Region Reads


September 22, 2010
LAKES REGION — Everyone's doing it, and librarians throughout the Lakes Region want you to do it too – read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," that is.

The novel, written as a series of letters in the aftermath of World War II, was chosen for the first ever Lakes Region Reads, a project that was put together by library directors of the 19 participating Lakes towns. The book, written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, has been on bestseller lists since its publication in 2008.

"It was an excellent read," Meredith Public Library Director Erin Apostolos said of the novel. "It's out (circulating) all the time."

The fictional society is created at the spur of the moment, when a group of people living on Guernsey Island during the German occupation get caught heading home from a dinner party after curfew. One of the characters invents the literary society to explain where they were, and fearful that the Germans will follow up, they buy armloads of books and get reading. The character of Juliet, an author living in London, learns of this through her correspondence with the society's members.

"It's a thoughtful book, but the story is told on a very personal level," said Katherine Hillier, director of the Pease Public Library in Plymouth. "It leaves the reader feeling like they've gotten to know some of the people on the island."

Hillier said that despite the topic, it's not downbeat.

"There's a lovely warmth to it," she said.

The current interest in the book, and its topic, made it an obvious choice for the multi-community read.

"We wanted to do something World War II related," Apostolos said.

"We" is the Scrooge & Marley Cooperative, a partnership between the directors of Lakes Region libraries. Apostolos said she had originally wanted to do a community read in Meredith but didn't have the funding for it. Instead, she asked the co-op members if they would be interested in doing something bigger in order to procure more sizeable grants. Now, the libraries in Ashland, Belmont, Bristol, Center Harbor, Center Sandwich, Gilford, Gilmanton, Jackson, Laconia, Meredith, Moultonboro, New Hampton, Northfield, Plymouth, Rumney, Sanbornton, Somersworth, Tilton and Tuftonboro are handing out copies of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" and inviting patrons throughout the region to their events.

"In the weeks leading up to Veterans Day … we will be remembering those who lived through those perilous times and especially those who gave their lives in the cause of freedom," Sanbornton Public Library Director Cab Vinton said. "But the novel and its tale of a Nazi-defying book group also reminds us that no matter how dark the times, we can always find freedom and courage in literature and friendship."

Aside from individual library discussions and events, highlights of the program include a visit from co-author Annie Barrows, and, to kick things off, a talk at the Wright Museum by Mike Pride, former Concord Monitor editor and author of "We Went to War," a book of World War II oral histories.

An $8,170 New Hampshire Humanities Council grants and a $5,000 grant from Meredith Village Savings Bank enabled the co-op to purchase 1,000 books for all of the libraries to pass out, and to fly Barrows out here from California.

Barrows will be speaking at Inter-lakes High School in Meredith Oct. 24, and the public is invited on a first come, first served basis. The following day, Barrows will be speaking, on her own time, to Inter-Lakes students, who are also participating in the Lakes Region Reads program.

But the first big event is the program's kickoff party on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m. at the Wright Museum in Wolfeboro. Pride will discuss his book, and 200 free copies of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" will be handed out to the first visitors.

Tickets for free admission to the Wright Museum event can be picked up at a participating library or printed from http://lrr-kickoff.eventbrite.com/.

To wrap up the program on Nov. 6, a concert featuring the Lakes Region Big Band will be held at the NH Veterans Home in Tilton.

Individual libraries have set up special events leading up to Veterans Day as well. Pease Library, for example, will be hosting Mark Foynes, director of the Wright Museum, in November for a program on love letters exchanged by two NH residents during WWII.

Sanbornton Public Library will host "Popular Music During World War II: Using Propaganda to Boost Morale" Oct. 13.

Hall Memorial Library in Tilton/Northfield is dedicating its "First Monday" talk in October to a presentation from Kenneth Gorrell, who discovered, edited and published a manuscript written by Henry T. Gorrell, a distant cousin and United Press reporter during WWII.

The Meredith Public Library is having Lawrence Douglas come in for a video documentary and discussion Oct. 7.

All of these events are open to residents throughout the Lakes Region, and the library directors are encouraging people to travel between towns to see and hear a variety of special presentations.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for people scattered all over the community to have a dialogue about some of the same issues," Hillier said.

For a complete listing of events visit www.lakesregionreads.wordpress.com or contact your local library. The 2010 Lakes Region Reads is sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council, the Meredith Village Savings Bank of the NH Charitable Foundation, the Laconia Savings Bank, the Inns and Spa at Mill Falls and Lakes Region Spirit Magazine.

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