Welcome to the first meeting of the Morning Edition Reads book club! Here's how it's going to work: A well-known writer will pick a book he or she loved. We'll all read it. Then, you'll send us your questions about the book. And about a month later, we'll reconvene to talk about the book with the author and the writer who picked it.
Ready? Here we go:
The first book has been selected by Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and co-owner of Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore in Nashville. Patchett says the best book she read this year was Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free.
Journalist Hector Tobar recounts the ordeal of 33 miners who were trapped 2,000 feet underground in a mine in Chile for 69 days in 2010. "It's a riveting story," Patchett tells NPR's David Greene. "It was riveting when we were watching it on the news, it's riveting in the book. ... Even though we already know they're safe, there's an enormous amount of suspense and tension."
The book also stands out, Patchett says, because of Tobar's beautiful and thoughtful writing. "He's taking on all of the big issues of life," she says. "What is life worth? What is the value of one human life? What is faith? Who do we become in our darkest hour?"
Deep Down Dark is an ideal book club read because it's a story that is best appreciated when discussed with others; Patchett says after a recent conversation with friends, she found they "had all been just unbelievably moved by something different" in the miners' story.
Over the next few weeks, you can send us your questions for Tobar. Submit your questions on the Morning Edition Facebook page or tweet them using the hashtag #MorningReads. When our club meets next month, your question might be read on air!
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some other news this morning, news we're making. We're excited to announce that MORNING EDITION is starting a book club. We're calling it Morning Reads. Our colleague David Greene is going to explain and invite you to join the club.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
To kick it all off, we are asking another member, Ann Patchett, to pick our first selection. She's the author of books, including "Bel Canto." She's also the co-owner of Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore in Nashville. And she's going to talk to us in just a moment. Let me tell you how this is going to work. She is going to give us a selection. You, our listeners, and all of the book club members, including myself, we're all going to read the book. You can send us your questions, and we'll reconvene here on MORNING EDITION in a month or so to discuss the book with the author and also Ann. So let's bring in Ann now. Ann, thanks for being here, and welcome to the book club.
ANN PATCHETT: I'm so glad to be here.
GREENE: So what is the first book that we're all going to read together?
PATCHETT: It's called "Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories Of 33 Men Buried In A Chilean Mine, And The Miracle That Set Them Free" - it's a heck of a subtitle...
PATCHETT: ...By Hector Tobar.
GREENE: You almost know exactly what the book is about from the title itself, but this is going back to 2010 - these 33 miners who were trapped 2,000 feet underground in a mine in Chile for 69 days, which is astounding. Tell us a little more about the book and why you think this would be a good read for us.
PATCHETT: I love this book on two levels. It was my favorite book of the year, and I do nothing but read books. Because, one, just by itself, it's a riveting story. It was riveting when we were watching it on the news. It's riveting in the book. You want to make sure these men are safe. Even though we already know they're safe, there's an enormous amount of suspense and tension - how they're going to get through this.
But the second half - and it's why this is an extraordinary book - is because of Hector Tobar's writing, which is so beautiful and so thoughtful that he's taking on all of the big issues of life. You know, what is life worth? What is the value of one human life? What is faith? Who do we become in our darkest hour? And he really brings this story to a level that I don't feel like anyone else could have done.
GREENE: You know, we want to make this book club about the books and encourage people to read them. I have friends who are in book clubs, and oftentimes they say it becomes just a social gathering. People don't actually read the books, and sometimes bad books are recommended. I mean, what makes a book right for a group to sort of read together and explore together?
PATCHETT: I can tell you what the answer is for me, but that certainly isn't the answer for all book clubs. And I've got no problem with people who use a book as an excuse to get together and have fun and socialize. I think that's fine.
GREENE: People are nodding and saying thank you for saying that out there.
GREENE: I can hear them right now.
PATCHETT: (Laughter). But for me, I want to discuss a book that I feel like I would benefit from other people's insights. You don't need to have a book club and get together and discuss "Gone With The Wind." You can really figure that one out all by yourself. But a book like "Deep Down Dark," we're all going to say, oh, you know, I didn't think about that. It wasn't that way for me. I was talking about this book with a couple of people that I know recently, and we were talking about at what point in the book we cried. Now, I'm somebody who cries maybe once every two years. I'm just not a crier.
PATCHETT: But I cried when I read this book. And I've cried maybe in three books in my life. But when I was talking about that with this group of people, we had all cried at a different point. We had all been just unbelievably moved by something different. And that to me is what makes a book a great book club book.
GREENE: All right. Well, you talk about people bringing their own insights and questions. And let's describe to our listeners how they can do just that. Over the next few weeks, you can send us your questions on the MORNING EDITION Facebook page, or you can tweet them to us - hash tag #morningreads. And when our club meets in a month, your question might be read on air.
PATCHETT: And everybody read this book. All you NPR people, read the book. It's the best book of the year.
INSKEEP: How can you say no to that? "Deep Down Dark" recommend by author Ann Patchett, who spoke with our own David Greene. Ann Patchett will join us along with the author Hector Tobar when we reconvene our book club in a month or so. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.