Have you ever been in the middle of a great book and just itched to talk to someone, anyone, about how you never thought that cliffhanger in chapter seven could possibly be resolved—but then it was? The people of Richardson do not have that problem. Each year, the Richardson Public Library hosts the Richardson Reads One Book program, encouraging everyone in the community to read the same book over the summer. This year's book is Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian.

Director of Library Services Steve Benson explained that the program brings together people to discuss their thoughts and ideas on a new common interest—the chosen book. "Our goal is to get people talking about literature and the issues in literature," Benson said. This is Richardson's fifth annual One Book program, and the planning committee tries to select books that focus on different issues every year.

Before You Know Kindness portrays a family dealing with the changes and challenges that come after the animal-activist father is shot. The book also spotlights issues involved in vegetarianism and animal rights. The library encourages conversations on these subjects by planning events such as the "How to Eat Like a Vegetarian Even if You Never Want to be One" presentation by author Carol J. Adams. Mr. Bohjalian also came to Richardson and gave both a public lecture to an audience of over 1,700 as well as a smaller talk to about 200 Richardson high school students.

Mr. Benson said the program seems to have grown in numbers and popularity every year. While he cannot track how many people read the selected book, Mr. Benson said that the free tickets to Bohjalian's public lecture were all snapped up within a week.

The library's events also reach out to many segments of the Richardson community. In addition to the discussion with Mr. Bohjalian, high school students attend a special writing seminar. Book discussions have been hosted by the Richardson Newcomers Club; the library book discussion group, BookBabble; the Richardson Woman's Club; and the First Methodist Church. Grants from Humanities Texas and the Richardson Arts Commission supported this year's program.

To join in the fun, visit One Book to find discussion questions for Before You Know Kindness as well as other book recommendations.

Past Richardson Reads One Book selections have been:

  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2007)
  • My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult (2006)
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2005)
  • Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2004)