The Middle Shelf: Part 16- A CGC Guide to Finding Common Ground through Reading

Hello Middleshelfers, Happy Labor Day weekend!

Here at the Common Ground Committee we are always looking for ways to bring positive discourse, and as our mission states,  we look to” pursue initiatives which will reveal common ground for finding truth, clarity, understanding, and progress on issues of importance in a civil manner that does not require compromise of fundamental principles.” Among those initiatives are encouraging people to vote and to read.  Reading allows us to understand not just ourselves but others and voting is a way to take the knowledge gained to further our Democracy.

The last few weeks have been difficult ones for our country as we have sustained losses of icons admired by many.  As such, we thought that this week’s book focus would be something a little lighter in nature but still focusing on the initiatives outlined above. A while back we mentioned The Great American Read sponsored by PBS and as it winds down, we are suggesting that you not only check out the list but VOTE!

The idea behind the Great American Read was not to find the greatest novel ever written, but rather a way to find out “what Americans actually care about.”  The list was compiled through a “demographically diverse national survey of 7,200 Americans asked to name their favorite novels, conducted by YouGov.”  PBS has acknowledged that the list is both eclectic and diverse and offers some surprises of what did and did not make the list. Bill Gardner, vice president of programming and development at PBS said that “If the series prompts a “positive” conversation about books, PBS will have fulfilled its mission. Let’s talk about what’s good about America, what brings us together — especially now.”


So we would urge you to take the time to review the list and the various interviews that PBS has done with some of the authors and to GO AND VOTE! Voting ends soon.

The multi-platform series about the books begins on September 11th. There will be “five one-hour theme episodes that examine concepts common to groups of books on the list”, and a finale on October 23rd when the winner will be announced. You can also purchase the book, The Great American Read: The Book of Books which offers information about each of the books on the list and the social relevance each book and author holds for readers.

While you are at it, why not look into some of the book groups at your local library.  These groups offer a great way to engage in the type of conversations that result in finding common ground with your neighbors.  Many libraries also sponsor the One Book One Community or Big Read series where people read the same book and then engage in events to discuss.