Harper Lee’s anticipated “Go Set a Watchman” chosen for library’s community read | SteamboatToday.com

Harper Lee’s anticipated “Go Set a Watchman” chosen for library’s community read

Liz Forster

Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" is this year's One Book Steamboat community read. It is the first book Lee has published in over 50 years.

The Bud Werner Memorial Library has jumped on the national Harper Lee bandwagon with its choice of "Go Set a Watchman," the author's first book since "To Kill a Mockingbird," for the One Book Steamboat community read.

"Go Set a Watchman" details "To Kill a Mockingbird" character Scout’s personal and political struggles during her return home to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch, 20 after "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The manuscript, which Lee wrote before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was originally rejected by Lee’s publisher, and it was thought to be lost. That is, until late 2014, when Lee’s lawyer, Tonja B. Carter, allegedly found it looking for an old typescript of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"Without a doubt, the release of "Go Set a Watchman" is a major literary event," said Jenny Lay, the library's adult programs coordinator. "The world has been waiting 55 years to hear from Harper Lee again. So when we were picking a community read, this monumental literary event was an obvious choice."

With "To Kill a Mockingbird's" legacy, the entire nation is counting down the final hours to the book’s release on Tuesday.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" has such a history and has touched my family and so many people of all generations across the country," Michelle Dover, the library's circulation manager and interlibrary loan assistant, said. "When they say 'classic,' "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a classic."

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Normally, the library announces its One Book Steamboat selection in the fall, closer to the One Book Steamboat events. This year, however, the library chose to announce the selection so as to coincide with the release of "Go Set a Watchman."

"We want to be part of the national hype," said Lay. "This release date allows as many people to get their hands on the book as possible before our fall programming."

The programming so far includes a screening of "To Kill a Mockingbird" on Sept. 16; a discussion with Lee’s biographer, Charles Shields, who allegedly was one of the few people to know of "Go Set a Watchman's" manuscript, on Oct. 15; and a discussion on "Go set a Watchman" on Oct. 28. Lay anticipates more events to be added closer to the fall.

"I love that there is an elevated conversation that occur when everyone in the community is focusing on one book and one issue," Dover said. "I think this will be especially successful, because it is a book that is accessible, and people can relate to. Plus, it's just moving material with a rich story surrounding Harper Lee."

The library has ordered more than 50 hardcover copies and digital editions of the book, which will be available Tuesday. For more information on the One Book Steamboat programming, visit steamboatlibrary.org/events/one-book-steamboat.

To reach Liz Forster, call 970-871-4374, email lforster@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LizMForster