It’s common knowledge that reading makes you smarter, wiser, sexier, more mysterious and arguably stronger (those hardcovers are heavy).
Why, you’re reading right now! Just take a look around and see how impressed everyone is. Feel the intrigue, the desire, the respect emanating from their fixed gaze — that’s why Grand Rapids Public Library started GR Reads, its adult summer reading program.
Okay, we might be taking some creative liberties here. GRPL’s Kristen Krueger-Corrado told Revue the program was conceived as being one book for the city to read together, but it quickly became apparent that one book was not enough. So now it’s 10 books, which is probably just the right amount.
These 10 books are chosen by a committee of librarians, who take into account quality, timeliness, relevance to the community, variety and perhaps most importantly, the ability to program events around the selection.
“Sometimes we’ll program around theme, and sometimes we just look at what’s going to make an impact on our readers and on our patrons,” Krueger-Corrado said. “For example, we picked 1984, which is extremely timely for what’s going on in our political climate.”
GR Reads is stacked with events — 28 to be precise — of all kinds, all around the city, all tied to the 10 books.
One of the selections, Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo, tells the true story of perhaps the largest art forgery con of all time. So GRPL is partnering with San Chez Bistro to host Painting and Pinot: Forge a Fake — the event’s name pretty much speaks for itself.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch follows a college physics professor as he’s pulled through a gateway into another life. As such, GRPL is hosting a walk around Grand Rapids with photographer Dianne Carroll Burdick, who will teach you how to shoot historic doors and gateways in interesting ways. A week later, Paulette Epstein, planetarium manager and staff astronomer at the Michigan Science Center, will give a presentation on the science of dark matter and why it (pun definitely intended) matters.
“We want to bring the library out into the community, so the majority of our programs take place outside of the library,” Krueger-Corrado said. “Really, what we’re trying to do is engage people with reading in the library and maybe in a nontraditional way.”
The program has grown over time, with an event last year filling SpeakEZ Lounge to fire code capacity and leading to a long line out the door. This year, Krueger-Corrado is most excited about Fright Night at Stonesthrow in August, a screening of Night of the Living Dead in the titular furniture store’s showroom after dark. Movie snacks and beverages will be provided, all for free.
The spooky, after-hours event is inspired by Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör, Krueger-Corrado’s favorite book on this year’s list. Combining humor and horror, this novel tells the story of a Scandinavian furniture store clearly meant to represent IKEA, where employees find broken and vandalized products every morning. Five of the employees finally decide to stay overnight to catch the perp, but of course nothing goes as expected. The whole book is laid out like a retail catalog, complete with furniture illustrations and descriptions throughout.
GRPL orders these books in massive quantities, so you should have no fear of showing up to your local branch and being turned away. They come in physical form, e-books, audiobooks — whatever you need. You can even start your own book club, checking out multiple copies at a time.
While some of the books/events are silly and some are serious, the real goal of GR Reads is to bring people together.
“We want to develop the idea that there’s a sense of community around these books, so you’ll see people attend multiple programs over the summer and you really get to know other people,” Krueger-Corrado said. “So it’s not only sitting at home reading a book, but it’s starting a dialogue about what’s going on in these books and what you’re experiencing in these programs.”
July GR Reads Events
Gin Tasting and Tour (1984): Long Road Distillers, July 10
Doors and Gateways of GR Photo Walk (Dark Matter): GRPL Main, July 11
Threats Facing the Lake Michigan Shoreline (Sudden Sea): GRPL Main, July 13
The Science of Dark Matter (Dark Matter): GRPL Main, July 17
Bangarang Circus (The Tumbling Turner Sisters): GRPL Main, July 18
Scandinavian Cooking with the Ginger Chef (Horrorstör): Central Reformed Church, July 24 & 26
Beautifully Wrapped: the Global Art of Headwrapping (You Can’t Touch My Hair): LINC Gallery, July 27
Exploring Michigan’s Urban Legends (The Red Market): Grand Rapids Brewing Company, July 27
The Right to Fight and Serve (The Harlem Hellfighters): GRPL Main, July 31
For a complete list of books and August’s events, visit grpl.org/grreads.