Read Together Palm Beach County

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By: Christina Wood Contributing Writer

When was the last time you curled up with a good book?

If you’re too busy staring at various screens to slip between the covers, you might want to take a minute to google “the benefits of reading.”

If you do, you’ll find lists on websites like the Huffington Post and Real Simple that talk about the way reading can boost your brain power, make you more empathetic and help you get a better night’s sleep. Research indicates that reading a book may even help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

The Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County would like you – and a few thousand of your neighbors – to experience the benefits and rediscover the pleasures of losing yourself in a good book.  The nonprofit’s Read Together Palm Beach County, a “one book, one community” campaign, is now in full swing.

The book chosen for the 2017 campaign is “A Man Called Ove,” the debut novel by Swedish author Fredrik Backman.

You may have heard of it. After its release in 2012, the book soared to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List.  It stayed on the list for an impressive 77 consecutive weeks. It’s been in the news again recently, too, thanks to Tom Hanks’ announcement that he’s going to star in and produce a movie version of the book. (A Swedish-language film based on the book was released in 2015.)

Sharon Hill, who heads the Read Together Campaign Committee and sits on the Literacy Coalition’s board, enjoyed getting to know Ove as she read the book. “If he was your neighbor, you’d have to go through some changes before you could be friends,” she says. “But then you would be friends.  He had a lot to offer.”

Which is a nice way of saying that Ove is a curmudgeon.  He’s big on rules. He believes anybody who doesn’t drive a Saab is an idiot and he knows the right way to back up a U-Haul.

Sometimes you just want to shake him, but at other times you’ll cheer.

Ove’s story – which includes some laugh-out- loud moments – will give readers in Palm Beach County a lot to talk about. That’s one of the reasons the book was chosen.

You see, the Literacy Coalition is hoping that you will read the book and discuss it.  This year’s Read Together Campaign provides plenty of community events and activities that will allow you to do just that – from book discussion groups at a number of libraries to a stage reading of an excerpt of the book at Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach.

You can even experience an important part of Swedish culture – fika. “The word can be used as a noun or a verb, but basically fika is the Swedish version of a coffee break,” says Kristin Calder, chief executive officer of the Literacy Coalition.  “They’ve really made an art of it. The important thing is that you slow down, reconnect, recharge. And eat pastry.  That’s important, too.”

“We recognize that the book does touch on some serious topics,” Hill says.  But there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a cup of coffee and a piece of cake while you discuss those topics.

Calder says a handful of businesses in the county have embraced the true essence of the Read Together campaign and have offered opportunities to fika.

If you brought your copy of “A Man Called Ove” to Johan’s Joe in West Palm Beach on a Monday in November, you could enjoy complimentary coffee and a treat. Don’t have a copy of the book? No problem. You may obtain a copy for a $10 donation to the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.

Participating Park Avenue BBQ Grille location are offering complimentary coffee and cake between 2 and 4 p.m. on Thursdays through November. They will also have copies of the book available – as will all 43 Starbucks locations in the county.

A Skype interview with the book’s author will be the highlight of the Read Together finale, which will take place at the Hagen Ranch Road Library in Delray Beach on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 12:30 p.m. Visit LiteracyPBC.org for details.