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The community project examines everyday wonders through author Ross Gay's 'The Book of Delights,' other programs

COURTESY PHOTO: NATASHA KOMODA  - Ross Gay's 'The Book of Delights' is featured in the 19th annual Everybody Reads, presented by Multnomah County Library.Everybody reads, especially during a pandemic with people stuck at home, said Vailey Oehlke, director of libraries with Multnomah County Library.

"And it's not just because people have been stuck at home. Reading is often a reliable escape, especially when things tend to be repetitive," Oehlke said. "You find opportunities to find yourself in a different place. I have found myself reading a lot more than unusual."

Multnomah County Library branches have been closed to the public since March 13, 2020, but libraries have been staffed to distribute physical books to residents, and Oehlke said that online business has been robust.

And then there's Everybody Reads, the 19th annual community reading project, which happens in March and April. The Multnomah County Library works every year to get a specific book in the hands of students through physical books or via books or audio books. This year's book of choice is "The Book of Delights" by Ross Gay.

Physical books will be delivered to schools for distribution to students, and "The Book of Delights" also will be available via ebook and audio book (with Gay reading the audio book version). Copies also are available through Multnomah County Library branches.

It's a book of daily, lyrical essays by Gay written over the course of a year as he observes and reflects on things that serve as a joyful reminder of everyday wonders that often are overlooked.

"The book is lovely," Oehlke said. "I've felt strongly that (Everybody Reads) is a way for people to come together when it's not always comfortable. If there are a large number of people reading a book, generating conversations across interests and life, you lean more toward serious topics. But, given this year and everyone's state, it seemed appropriate to feature a title definitely about joy and delight — not that he doesn't write about serious topics (like race).

"He's encouraging people. I like the phrase he used in an interview once: 'Exercising your delight muscle.' Encased in so much difficulty, sorrow and the mundane, you have to be even more intentional and deliberate in taking joy in the smallest things that are within reach that maybe you haven't noticed before."

Everybody Reads, supported by The Library Foundation, builds programming around the particular year's book and its theme (this year it's "delight"). Other online programs include: Oregon Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani on April 1, and topics such as putting words and observations into drawing, tai chi martial arts and minority outdoor adventurers.

Presented by Literary Arts, Gay will give a virtual lecture in conversation with Portland author Lidia Yuknavitch at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 8, to conclude Everybody Reads. See www.literary-arts.org for tickets.

For complete details on Everybody Reads, see www.multcolib.org/everybody-reads.


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