Since its start seven years ago, Santa Monica’s annual Citywide Reads program has grown and grown. This program tailors book discussion groups and other events around a specific novel which everyone in the community is encouraged to read. This year’s book is The Shadow Catcher by Los Angeles author Marianne Wiggins.On February 25, a Book Mob was staged by the Santa Monica Public Library to mark the start of this year’s program. During the 20-minute Book Mob, about 40 copies of the book were handed out to anyone who wanted one and there were book readings as well. The Friends of the Santa Monica Library covered the cost of the books.Julie MacDonald, a Santa Monica Public Services Librarian, explained to the Mirror that this was the first year that a Book Mob was part of the Citywide Reads program. The library got the idea for the Book Mob after a library in San Francisco did one successfully. She then stated we’re always looking for “something new” for the program.Each year the library asks the community to suggest a book to be read for the program. The suggested books have to be novels and they must be available in paperback. A Citywide Reads program committee then narrows the list of suggested books down to a short list of five. They then all read each of the five books and make the decision. The committee is made up of library board members and representatives from the community.A big part of the program is the book discussions that are led by volunteer facilitators trained by the library. This year there will be nine such discussions held at various locations around Santa Monica from March 7 through April 4. MacDonald stressed that the “book discussions are the core of the program” because they help bring the community together.The program also includes events inspired by the chosen book. Wiggins’s novel is structured around the story of famed Native American photographer, Edward S. Curtis, who was known as “The Shadow Catcher.” One of the events will discuss Curtis’s career, while another will be a movie screening of a documentary on the Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver. There will also be a reading, discussion, and book signing with Wiggins, a discussion of Los Angeles’s various incarnations in literature, and a CityTV call-in moderated discussion of The Shadow Catcher. Copies of The Shadow Catcher can be found at all of the branches of the Santa Monica Public Library or at local bookstores. More information on the program can be found atsantamonicacitywidereads.blogspot.com.
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