Okay, I admit it ... most of what I read is pretty fun and light. I just finished reading “Mary Poppins She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers” by Valerie Lawson. This biography was released in 2006 and I noticed it just recently because of the buzz surrounding a film coming out in December starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. It was an entertaining read.
Along those same lines, I mostly read fiction this summer … Dan Brown's “Inferno”; the debut thriller from A.S.A. Harrison, “The Silent Wife”; and my favorite, an advanced reader copy of Tim Federle's “Five, Six, Seven, Nate!” — the sequel to “Better Nate Than Ever” for young readers. If you want fun reading, teen lit is a great escape.
This month, Omaha Public Library celebrates one of my favorite annual library events, Omaha Reads! This year's selected book is about as far from my usual reading choices as you can get — Truman Capote's “In Cold Blood.”
With help from a stellar panel of community leaders, Omaha Public Library narrowed several suggested choices to a list of finalists. Special thanks to Carol Bicak, Willie Hamilton, Cheril Lee Lewis, Timothy Schaffert, Lynda Shafer, Vanessa Timberlake, Carol Wang and Kelly Wolterman. These great readers selected five finalists for a public vote in April. Capote's classic masterpiece was the overwhelming winner.
I first read “In Cold Blood” in college and hadn't thought of it much since. When the title was selected, I finally felt compelled to reread it. It's an odd experience to read the same book 25 years later and find it speaks to me in a new way. I actually remembered many of the details, and yet the story seemed different somehow.
The horrific and senseless 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan., are even more tragic today. I struggle to understand what kind of person can commit these acts, and was also surprised to find that Capote was able to build so much suspense in a story where I already knew the ending. There is never a mystery, as the reader knows who did it, and yet Capote pulls you into the story, wanting to know more and asking why.
“In Cold Blood” continues to captivate readers and has never been out of print since its original publication in 1965. The book is considered a pioneer in true crime, a writing genre that continues to be very popular. Capote's painstaking research and captivating narrative set the bar very high, and his influence is seen in many of today's writers, including Tom Wolfe. Scholars continue to grapple with Capote's work, considering how much of the book is factual, how much was changed, and whether it even matters.
The decades-old Kansas crime depicted in the book was recently in the news, as an investigation into an unsolved murder was reopened last year with a possible link to the Holcomb murders. Earlier this year, the Kansas Historical Society released the case files for the two convicted murders on its website, kansasmemory.org.
Join us this month in reading or rereading this classic work and participate in conversations to discuss your reactions. Borrow your copy of “In Cold Blood” today and participate in one of the events planned as part of Omaha's biggest book club. Omaha Reads! will conclude with a program featuring author and Random House editor David Ebershoff on Sept. 29 at Kaneko.
Ebershoff oversees Capote publications for Random House and is the acclaimed author of four fiction novels, including “The Danish Girl” and “The 19th Wife.” Check our website for details on this and other events at omahalibrary.org.
Gary Wasdin is the executive director of the Omaha Public Library.