Though Barbara Ehrenreich won’t appear in Columbia for another month, her words have already been making an impact in the community. Her book, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” was the selection for this year’s One Read program, as well as reading programs at MU and Stephens College.
The events scheduled for the One Read program in Columbia begin with a celebrity book talk with Associate Circuit Judge Chris Kelly on Sept. 7 and culminate with the author’s visit Sept. 30.
Kelly said he was enjoying “Nickel and Dimed” so far but is more excited for the conversations that will ensue at the various One Read events.
“I don’t think it matters so much what the book is, just that the library is even doing the One Read program, and getting people talking,” Kelly said. “A community gains when people try to look at the different issues from other points of view and discuss them with our neighbors.”
Melissa Carr, director of Daniel Boone Regional Library, said she thinks the community is responding favorably to “Nickel and Dimed” and also hopes it will generate lively discussion.
“It’s a book that elicits conversation, and people have opinions and want to talk about it,” she said.
The book follows Ehrenreich as she tries to survive on low-wage jobs, beginning with only her car, a laptop and $1,300. Not surprisingly, the book centers around issues related to poverty and the struggles she faces as she searches for adequate housing and nutritional options.
The book has established a presence in the Columbia community, as it has been checked out of Columbia Public Library more than 1,300 times as of Monday. Eric Duermeyer, manager of 9th St. Bookstore, said he’s been selling at least one copy of the book a day.
Duermeyer said he has heard a lot of positive response to the book, and that customers come back to discuss it with him.
“They all enjoy it and all seem to relate to it,” he said. “It seems most people, at one time or another, have had one of these jobs, whether they were just starting out or still hold it.”
Duermeyer also said he appreciated this choice from a business perspective and he thinks the book has reached a lot of new people.
“There’s always quite a bit of interest in the program,” he said. “From a bookseller’s perspective, this is great because not a lot of people have heard of it, not a lot have read it, so they’re coming in to it fresh.”
Carr said the purpose of One Read is to choose a book that is thought-provoking and encourages discussion. Several of the events are designed to get people talking, including several celebrity book talks, panel discussions and forums on topics such as “Making Ends Meet.” Other events also include a photo contest and movie showings.
“We have a really good variety of events,” Carr said. “I think there’s something for most people to find something they enjoy.”
In the past two years, the One Read events have been stretched over a few months, but this year organizers decided on a different approach.
“We decided to concentrate the programs to help keep the excitement going,” she said.
But Carr also said she didn’t expect the discussion to end with the scheduled events, as outside groups tend to generate their own opportunities for discussion.