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Book club starts with a bang

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By The Staff

Unless one of us has a last-minute brainstorm, we've decided on a name. In case you're wondering, the name is for the new community reading group the News-Journal is sponsoring.

The CKNJ Bookmarks.

And we had our first meeting Sunday afternoon. Of about 22 people who signed up to participate, 13 attended. And we had a blast.

We had all either read or were in the process of reading a book by John Grogan titled "Marley and Me," a heartwarming story of a family in the making and the wondrously neurotic dog that taught them what really matters in life.

Every single one of us enjoyed the book and the memories of favorite pets it stirred.

An exciting note is that the book is now being made into a movie scheduled to be released in December.

In case you missed it, back in February I wrote a story and a column, asking readers what they thought about the possibility of beginning a community book group.

Well, the response was much more than I expected. And I'll admit I'm thrilled. So if you enjoy a good book and would like the chance to talk to others who are reading the same book, we'd love to have you join us!

With help from the Taylor County Public Library and the Taylor County Extension Office, the group will meet once every few months. There is no membership or mandatory attendance, it's just a group of people getting together to talk about great books. We hope it will be fun for residents and also bring some attention to the problem of illiteracy in our world today.

Here at the News-Journal, we hope that those who might not have picked up a book in a while might be interested enough to join us for this event. Elaine Munday, librarian at Taylor County Public Library, says she will obtain several copies of the group's book selections. We also hope that those who buy the books will read them and pass them on to a friend, which will allow even more people to join in the fun.

After our discussion on Sunday, the group selected the next two books to read - "Change of Heart" by Jodi Picoult and "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen.

Here is a short synopsis of the books, according to the authors' Web sites.

u "Change of Heart," by Jodi Picoult, http://www.jodipicoult.com/change-of-heart.html.

New Hampshire's first death row prisoner in 69 years has only one last request: to donate his heart post-execution to the sister of his victim, who is looking for a transplant. Bourne says it's the only way he can redeem himself ... but with lethal injection as his form of execution, this is medically impossible.

But then the man begins to perform miracles at the prison that are witnessed by officers, fellow inmates and even a priest. Could an unkempt, bipolar, convicted murderer be a savior? It seems highly unlikely, to the priest. Until he realizes that the things Shay says may not come from the Bible ... but are, verbatim, from a gospel that the early Christian church rejected 2,000 years ago ... and that is still considered heresy.

Change Of Heart asks whether religion and politics truly are separate in this country, or inextricably tangled. Does religion make us more tolerant, or less? Do we believe what we do because it's right? Or because it's too frightening to admit that we may not have the answers?

u "Water for Elephants," by Sara Gruen, http://www.saragruen.com/water.html.

As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now 90, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.

It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

We will schedule a meeting again in July to discuss "Change of Heart." Then we'll met in October to talk about "Water for Elephants."

Too many of us don't read merely for the enjoyment it provides. And, what's worse, even more don't find enjoyment in reading ... or don't read at all.

So, if you're interested in joining us, please drop me an e-mail at editor@cknj.com. We'd love to have you join us!