One Read author Andrea Barrett visits Columbia

Thursday, September 17, 2009 | 5:20 p.m. CDT; updated 5:39 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 17, 2009
Author Andrea Barrett, left, signs a copy of her book "The Air We Breathe" for Barbara Barlag of Columbia on Thursday at the Columbia Public Library.

COLUMBIA — One Read might be focused on one book, but one book prompts multiple angles of discussion.

This month, the Daniel Boone Regional Library’s One Read program has invited the community to partake in numerous events revolving around Andrea Barrett’s “The Air We Breathe.” The 2007 novel centers on tuberculosis patients about the time of World War I.

One Read offered readers the opportunity to meet with Barrett at the Columbia Public Library for a book signing Thursday afternoon. Barrett’s visit to Columbia is one of many events on the library’s September calendar.

For Cathy Salter, 63, One Read has become a yearly event. “The Air We Breathe” is the fourth book she has read as part of the program.

“The One Read program gives such a variety of people a chance to discuss the same book,” Salter said. “The book speaks to you, and it’s the characters speaking. You have a chance to get into someone else’s head and hear what they heard when they read the book.”

One of the program's unique aspects is the diversity of its events. Readers are given the opportunity to explore numerous aspects of the novel beyond typical discussions.

“With One Read there’s not just the book; there’s so many spring off aspects to discuss,” Salter said. “The Model-T, sanitariums and World War I all relate to this book.”

Throughout this month, patrons have been invited to presentations and participated in discussions on immigration, tuberculosis and socioeconomic issues.

“People are drawn to book groups by so many things,” Salter said. “This is just a bigger version. This is a community version of a reading circle.”

With two weeks left in September, there are still plenty of opportunities to join the One Read celebration. An outdoor painting activity and a Model-T exhibit will both be taking place Saturday.  

Barrett will lecture about her novel Thursday evening at Columbia College’s Launer Auditorium. Barrett said when she meets with her audience they usually ask questions about characters or where ideas for the book came from; however, with the way One Read is structured she anticipates a different type of discussion.

“There’s people talking about TB and public health,” she said. “The really unusual thing is that they discuss all aspects of the book. I bet we will have lots of questions about sanitariums, tuberculosis and science.”

One Read coordinator Doyne McKenzie has enjoyed the diverse discussion prompted by the novel. The author’s original love of science has been funneled into an array of award-winning novels and short stories.

“Every time I’ve heard her talk, she talks about something else and it’s fascinating,” McKenzie said.

Barrett became the fifth author to visit Boone County as part of the One Read program. Previous guests include Barbara Ehrenreich, author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” and Sara Gruen, author of “Water for Elephants.”

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