Lake Oswego Review
Thursday, August 27, 2015
'LO Reads' chooses first nonfiction book
“Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis” has been selected as the Lake Oswego Reads title for 2016 — the first nonfiction book ever chosen for the annual citywide reading program.
Seattle author Timothy Egan’s latest work tells the story of Edward Curtis, a dashing, charismatic, passionate mountaineer and famous photographer. He has been described as the Annie Leibovitz of his time — a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars and the leading thinkers of his era. But in 1900, at the age of 32, he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent’s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared.
With the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, Curtis spent the next three decades documenting the stories and rituals of more than 80 Native American tribes. He went on to publish 20 volumes, and today his images are prized by collectors and Curtis himself is hailed as a visonary.
“I’ve always loved the Edward Curtis photographs, but I had no idea of the level of his struggles, sacrifices and dedication until I read Tim Egan’s book,” says Bill Baars, director of the Lake Oswego Library. “Curtis’ work was enlightening and haunting, and it remains one of the great records of those who first lived on this land.”
Now in its 10th year, Lake Oswego Reads is designed to strengthen civic pride, foster discussion among the city’s residents and bring the community together through the common bond of reading. The program turns the library into a cultural hub, with a variety of special events that feature speakers, music, food, art and more.
All of the events are free, thanks to the financial support of the Friends of the Lake Oswego Public Library, Lake Oswego Rotary Club, Lake Oswego Women’s Club and The Lake Oswego Review.
“When Brian Doyle spoke during our month of programs around his book “Mink River” in 2012, I loved his passion about community, especially as he spoke of us, here, as Walugans, and reminded us that it is essential to remember, honor and maintain that unique sense of place, just as his characters had manifested theirs,” Baars says. “Developing that sense is — for me — central to our program, and this book will provide a great opportunity to continue that conversation.”
Baars credits the program’s steering committee for choosing a book that will “provide us with some excellent programming ideas. And I have to say that our discussions of this book have been among the most engaging we have had so far. We are excited to be sharing this with our community. It’s going to be another terrific February.”
The steering committee, which is made up of librarians, community leaders, high school English teachers and high school students, faced a huge challenge in selecting this year’s book. Last year’s selection, “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and numerous other awards. Choosing “All the Light,” which told the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide during World War II, was also especially appropriate, falling on the 70th anniversary of that global conflict.
Committee members read nearly 20 books before deciding on Egan’s work, and they believe they’ve got another winner.
“One of the many challenges, as well as the joys, of selecting a community reads book is finding the most engaging work for a wide, diverse audience of readers,” says Daniella Bonanno, a Lakeridge High School Engish teacher. “Egan’s account of the life and photographs of Edward Curtis is that book.”
Longtime Lake Oswego businessman Paul Graham agrees.
“It touches on perseverance, family, presidents, men of wealth and the Indian tribes that came before them, and leaves a unique legacy,” Graham says. “As I read it, I wondered why I hadn’t encountered the amazing life of Edward Curtis and his photographs before now.”
Nancy Niland, president of the Friends of the Library and chairwoman of the Library Advisory Board, says she’s thrilled with the selection.
“I’m already looking forward to the engaging conversations and programs we’ll enjoy as a community,” she says.
The official kickoff of Lake Oswego Reads is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2016, at the library. Complimentary copies of Egan’s book will be distributed to Lake Oswego Public Library card holders, thanks to the Friends of the Library. Special events will be held throughout February, including the possibility that Egan may speak in Lake Oswego sometime during the month.
Egan is the author of seven books, including “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl,” “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America,” “The Winemaker’s Daughter” and “Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West.” His nonfiction account of the Dust Bowl won the 2006 National Book Award, and he was featured prominently in the 2012 Ken Burns film on the Dust Bowl.
A lifelong journalist, Egan now writes an online opinion column for The New York Times. Before that, he worked as a national correspondent for the Times, roaming the West.
“The hard part is finished,” says Cyndie Glazer, the program coordinator for Lake Oswego Reads. “Now the fun part begins of finding displays and 30 events that will tie into the book. We really appreciate the suggestions that our community will come forward and share. We look forward to hearing from you!”
It is that coming together as a community that most excites steering committee member Lilly Logan.
“The hard part is finding a title that will bring in a different segment of our town to explore a book they may not have ever picked up and go on to experience more at the events,” she says. “The joyful part is seeing all the new faces meeting our fans and learning something new, together. One book can pull a community together.”