‘The Big Burn’ selected as Kitsap Regional Library’s ‘one book’ for fall reading.

Timothy Egan - courtesy Photo
Timothy Egan
— image credit: courtesy Photo

The history of the effort to protect public lands is the subject of Kitsap Regional Library’s latest “One Book, One Community,” an effort to turn reading — typically a solo activity — into a community project.

Last month Kitsap Regional Library announced “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America” by Seattle-based author and New York Times columnist Timothy Egan as this year’s “One Book, One Community” read. The event will run from mid-September to mid-November where residents will be able to discuss the material in book groups as well as participate in other library programs and activities focused on the book.

“I’m all for anything that brings Kitsap together,” Lori Johnson, 52, of Silverdale, said last week while browsing through books at the Silverdale branch’s book sale. “Even if it’s nothing more than a psychological feeling of community,” she said.

“The Big Burn” is the true story of the largest forest fire in U.S. history and how it led to the formation of the National Forest Service. The 1910 conflagration destroyed about 3 million acres in parts of northeastern Washington, Montana and Idaho.

Egan describes the story of how President Theodore Roosevelt with Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the National Forest Service, worked to protect national forests against business and politicians who wanted the timber and minerals.

Even though the past three selections for the annual reading program have been fiction, with this year’s book having a regional standpoint, library employees think it will engage readers.

“It’s the first nonfiction but it’s very well-written and has a strong narrative throughout,” said Jeff Brody, spokesman for Kitsap Regional Library.

Library programs will connect readers with the book’s content as well as with one another, addressing topics including the history of the National Forest Service and local environmental protection.

All libraries will have book groups focused on the book in the fall. Brody said that although nothing has been finalized yet, they hope to have Egan speak about his book. He added that the focus for a community to read the same book has been a growing trend among other library systems and universities, and was spearheaded by librarian Nancy Pearl with Seattle Public Library.

“Reading is a personal thing. You sit down and you read,” Brody said. “The neat thing about “One Book, One Community,” is that it takes the experience of reading and makes it a shared experience.”

Last fall’s common book, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford, was checked out more than 1,000 times and more than 1,130 people attended events and programs related to the novel, Brody said.

An estimate for the number of copies of “The Big Burn” available by the fall include 300 paperbacks, nine book group sets at 12 copies each, 75 CD audiobooks and five copies of downloadable audiobooks.

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