The Rossland Reads Debaters for 2014 are...

Jennifer Ellis
By Jennifer Ellis
October 1st, 2014

What is the one thing that all Rossland Reads debaters have in common? Well, they love to read, obviously. But beyond that, our intrepid debaters, Aerin Guy, Mark Jeffery, Kate Harrison Whiteside, and Liz Anderson, all read for different reasons, and have different taste in books. Well, enough different to make for some interesting debates anyway.

That’s right. In case you haven’t heard, Rossland Reads is back for another year and we have a very diverse and exciting collection of books vying to be the one that all Rosslanders should read in 2014. They include: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon, and Endurance by Alfred Lansing. If you haven’t started reading them yet, and want to read them in time for the debates, I suggest you get started.

The debates kick off at 7:00 p.m. on October 22nd. At least a couple of the books have changed the way I look at life, so you might want to check them out. The library has a full set and some of the panelists might be willing to lend out their copies.

I caught up with the debaters to talk about why they like to read, and what they look for in a book. You know, kind of to get them warmed up for the debate. The questions only get harder from here!

Their reasons for reading varied with relaxation and escape being the most common. But they also mentioned reading to learn, disappear into a book, fire up their imaginations, see their room littered with books, and experience things that others have. Harrison Whiteside observed, “I read…to travel places without going.” Jeffery also linked reading with travel, “If you want to get the most out of life and you want to experience things that others do, that you would not be able to otherwise then reading is essential. It’s the same reason I travel.”

When it comes to picking their books both Anderson and Harrison Whiteside look to the recommendations of friends and family, but have particular types of books they are drawn to. Harrison Whiteside indicated that she likes books “with a powerful central character lots of emotion, and a great location” and with “excellent visual impact—through their titles, stories or characters.”

Anderson loves magic realism but noted that surprise is a key element of the books she picks. “I’ll often read something that’s a recommendation without reading the back cover/book jacket…. I love being surprised. If I know how the book ends, I’m less likely to finish it.”

Guy and Jeffery both emphasized reading for ideas and experiences. Guy noted, “I like dark and disturbing themes—I’m definitely not a beach book reader.” She observed that while she reads books for business, “I find that I draw even more inspiration and ideas from fiction.”

Jeffery commented,“I enjoy books that take me to different places (literal and metaphorical, of course!) expose me to different perspectives and different ideas, allow me to think different thoughts and experience different emotions. I’m one person living one life; I look for books that take me into other people’s lives.

When asked how and why they picked their Rossland Reads selection, all of the debaters mentioned struggling a bit, particularly with the theme of travel, (and no doubt wanting to pick the winning book), except Guy, whose book apparently chose her.

“I feel like The Alchemist chose me! It literally hopped off the shelf into my hands at the Rossland Thrift Store. I’d heard about it but was wary of its spiritual themes. I shouldn’t have worried—it’s such an inspiring and timeless book, full of imagination. When I learned that ‘travel’ was the theme for this year, it immediately sprang to mind as an extremely relatable book for those who find themselves questioning their life’s decisions, defining priorities, chasing dreams, and seeking.”

Ah, the Rossland Thrift Store—one of the great places where Rosslanders exchange books. Many a fantastic read has been found on its shelves.

All of the other debaters also came at the theme of travel more indirectly with their selections. Harrison Whiteside noted, “I chose Out of Africa “for its central themes—adventure, pioneering, exploration of a new life, romance—all things inherent in the people who have made, and make, Rossland what it is.”

Anderson observed, Riding the Bus with my Sister “centres around riding a city bus, but the travel is more of a metaphorical journey / personal growth story.”

Jeffery started his selection process with a stack of potentials, but ended up going with the first one he read.

“I wanted to read a book set in the most interesting place I have been, which is the Antarctic. So I picked out the most famous books about the Antarctic. I read the first one, Endurance, and I loved it. So I picked it. Also as a man, I feel I might be in the minority both in terms of the panelists and the audience, and I was worried about picking what might be seen as a male book. But now I see it as a challenge, being the guy with a slightly different book.”

I asked the debaters how many of the Rossland Reads books they’ve read, and they all indicated that they were right up to date on their reading (you’re only behind if you’ve read fewer books than the moderator), which is good because that means they are all probably busily preparing notes now, and the debates should be lively.

They all agreed that Rossland Reads is a great event and were very grateful to the Rossland Library for putting it on. They all noted that Rossland Reads has forced them to read (and enjoy) some books that they might not have picked themselves, and that any event in which people talk about books is a good one.

Anderson observed, “I love hearing why someone was touched by a book and what they experienced when reading it.”

It’s also possible that some of the debaters are a wee bit competitive and are looking forward to taking the gloves off in the name of books and reading (all in good fun, of course). Harrison Whiteside noted, “I thought the battles at the previous event were brilliant. We have quite a crew on this panel. Very different books. And, some strong personalities defending their titles! It’s going to be a challenge.”

Alright, those are the easy questions. If you want to see the debaters tackle the toughies, come out on the 22nd for some edge of your seat moments, good fun, and great door prizes.

Jennifer Ellis is a local writer. Her third novel, A Quill Ladder, will be released in late October.

Categories: Arts and Culture

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