At the beginning of 2013, Puyallup Mayor Rick Hansen made an off-hand comment regarding the library’s then-upcoming 100th anniversary.
“Maybe we should have everybody read 100 books,” he suggested.
That remark, which Hansen didn’t think would be taken seriously, became the mayor’s 100-book reading challenge. Hansen announced the challenge during a Feb. 11 ceremony to commemorate the actual 100th anniversary of the dedication of Puyallup’s first dedicated library building, the Carnegie Building.
One hundred turns out to be a lot of books, and the idea that it was a challenge is true in every sense of the word. But looking back throughout the year, what matters is what parts of the books you read stay with you and live in your memory.
At the end of each great book, there is a certain sadness when you close the cover for the last time, knowing that it’s over, and that you can no longer live in the world the author created.
As Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler tells Claudia, the protagonist of the late E. L. Konigsburg’s classic Newbery winner, “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”:
“Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you.”
The fictional Mrs. Frankweiler is referring to Claudia and her brother’s adventure running away from home and living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But similarly, each book you read is an adventure, a journey, and what matters is the part you carry with you.
The best books create vivid mental images, such as Achilles dragging the body of his vanquished foe Hector behind his chariot in David Malouf’s retelling of an incident from Homer’s Iliad in his book, “Ransom.” Malouf makes you feel Achilles’ horses being pushed to their limit, wet with sweat and foam.
The best books stun you with the beauty of language, or, in the case of William Shakespeare’s “Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope,” the flawless execution of the conceit of using the language of Shakespeare to rewrite the first Star Wars film as a play.
Author Ian Drescher’s iambic pentameter is dead-on, and he brilliantly gives the droid R2-D2 some soliloquies, such as: “And merry pranks shall I play aplenty/upon this pompous droid C-3PO!/Yet not in language shall my pranks be done:/Around both humans and droids I must/Be seen to make such errant beeps and squeaks/That they shall think me simple ... ”
The best books have characters so vividly realized that you will never forget them, such as the frumpy English detective Cormorant Strike in J. K. Rowling’s new mystery, “Cuckoo’s Calling,” written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
Finally, the best books make you feel something; sometimes fear, as in Holly Black’s creepy novel “Doll Bones” about a porcelain doll that may just be alive.
Or they can simply be so funny that they make you feel blissfully happy, such as Swedish author Jonas Jonasson’s hilarious “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.”
Allan Karlsson, the centenarian hero of the book, turns out to have been involved in most of the important events of the past century. While on the run from the Swedish police, being suspected of murder, alternating chapters relate Karlsson’s exploits, like preventing the assassination of Winston Churchill, or being saved from execution at the hands of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Ill, because of the presence of Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung, whose wife, Karlsson, he just happened to save in an earlier adventure.
Here’s hoping that pursuing the mayor’s 100-book challenge has created many lasting memories. Hansen has completed the challenge and has actually read more than 100 books.
A “100 Book Club” plaque was presented to him at his final city council meeting as mayor on Dec. 10. To date, about 50 other individuals, both children and adults, also have completed the challenge.
If you are still trying to finish, remember the deadline to turn in reading logs is Jan. 15. Books needed to be completed by Dec. 31.
A 100-book club party is in the works for everyone who completes the challenge.Tim Wadham is the director of the Puyallup Public Library. He can be reached at 253-841-5454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.