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2011 Anisfield-Wolf winner Kamila Shamsie reflects on the availability of literature through the world’s public libraries—and what that means for future generations:

“A couple of years ago, after a reading in Karachi, I told off a young man who was asking me to sign a pirated copy of one of my books. Piracy is destroying publishing in Pakistan, I told him. He said he understood but added that because pirated books are cheaper he could buy more of them. It’s not as if Karachi is filled with public libraries, he said.”

Shamsie goes on to discuss the rising crisis in London, where 10 percent of all libraries have closed since April 2011. Read the full article here. A commenter on the article added:

“Libraries are important not just for the poor. They work for all of us and not only for books or computers. During this financial crisis we are living in, more people is going to the library to learn something new, to attend a free lecture, to polish his/her resume, to enjoy music from all over the world. Libraries are making everything they can to adapt their services to a new the technology not to mention how they help the new immigrant population. We have the moral obligation to protect, preserve and increase the public libraries.”

How often do you visit your town’s public library? Do they serve an important purpose in today’s society, even as technology expands our access to literature?

Anisfield-Wolf jury chair Henry Louis Gates has a resume a mile long. And in between his work at Harvard, his successful PBS specials, among his other numerous obligations, he found time to finish “Life On These Shores: Looking At African-American History 1513-2008,” an expansive look at the experience of blacks in America from the time of arrival of the free black conquistador Juan Garrido with Ponce de León in 1513 to the election of President Obama in 2008. Gates covers subjects as diverse as NBA great Bill Russell to Malcolm X to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The reason he’s able to write such books on such expansive topics is quite simply, his love for knowledge. In this interview with the Boston Globe, he talks about his love of reading and what books he believes everyone should pick up at least once. Check out the short excerpt below:

From The Boston Globe:

The books he’s reading currently

“Steve Jobs’’ by Walter Isaacson, which I’m loving, and “The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus’’ by Joel Chandler Harris. Most people look back at “Uncle Remus’’ and think it was racist, but people like W.E.B. Dubois in the teens and ’20s wrote about Harris as a preserver of black culture. So I’m going back to see. I just finished reading, “Freedom Papers’’ by Rebecca Scott [and Jean M. Hébrard], which traces a black woman’s family across five generations. It’s a brilliant book. I’m also reading the “Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War.’’ And lately I’ve been on a Faulkner kick. I read “Absalom, Absalom!’’ and “As I Lay Dying.’’ That’s what I’ve been reading on planes. The thing that Faulkner got right was the intimacy in black and white relations.

The book he’d recommend to everyone

“The Intuitionist’’ by Colson Whitehead. “Invisible Man’’ by Ralph Ellison to me is the greatest novel of that time. Rita Dove’s poetry. Anything by Jamaica Kincaid and by Toni Morrison. My favorite of hers is “Jazz.’’

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

For those who enjoy reading books, and enjoy sharing their favorite books with their friends even more, starting a book club amongst friends might be a great option. We’ve read many tips on starting a book club, but this post from Monica at TheYummyLife details how she’s managed to keep her book club going for 25 years.

From The Yummy Life blog:

There are lots of book clubs out there now, and there’s more than one way to run a successful one. I’ve only had experience with mine, so I’ll share how ours is organized and why I believe we’ve had such endurance. If you are in a book club and have some ideas to share, I’d love to hear from you.

1. Number of members. We’ve had as many as 18 and as few as 7 active members. You need enough regular members to allow for an absentee or two each time. It’s hard to have a good discussion with fewer than 4 or 5 people in attendance.

2. A regular meeting day and time. We have always met the first Monday of each month at 7:30 pm. That way we can reserve book club meetings on our calenders and schedule other things around them. That makes good attendance more likely. The 7:30 start gives us time to eat dinner with our families before we come.

3. Rotating hosts. We move from house to house for each meeting. We don’t plan this too far ahead, because often we don’t know our schedules more than a month ahead of time. We let members volunteer to host from month to month, and it’s casually self-monitored. I know when it’s my turn to voluteer, so I do. Every one takes her turn when it works into her schedule.

4. Email reminders. It is the host’s responsibility to send out an email reminder to the rest of the group with details about when, where, and what book has been selected for the following month. (In the “olden” days before email, we had to mail out post card reminders. Hosting got a lot easier when email came along.) We usually send out an initial reminder a month ahead, and then a second reminder a day or two before the book club meeting. 

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