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The Power of a Good Book

By Mariann Sullivan — December 05, 2011

Books change the world. I mean, yeah, you can get a lot of information about everything on the internet machine, but how many of us would be wandering around in the dark, still eating animals, if we hadn’t had our thoughts about animals crystallized by reading a great book? Whether it’s Peter Singer, or J.M. Coetzee, or Jonathan Balcombe, or whoever, something you read in a book probably got you where you are today.

The problem is, of course, how do you get people who haven’t yet seen the light to read some of that literature so it can enlighten them? Well, one idea that I love is to make some books about animals part of a reading series. Here in New York, one of our favorite reading series, Free Range Nonfiction (I know, I know, the name is a bit offputting but, I promise, they’re not talking about “humane” eggs, they’re talking about a free-wheeling approach to nonfiction) is having a special animal night featuring the works of Alison Espach, Alison Smith, and Hannah Tinti (Disclaimer: I am not yet familiar with any of these authors, but my curiosity is definitely piqued.) Not everyone who runs Free Range is vegan (or even vegetarian), which is one of the great things about the fact that animals have made it on to the agenda for the evening, and that Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary will be the beneficiary of the night’s proceeds.

With a few tweaks, this kind of program can be replicated anywhere. Free Range features authors reading from their own works, but if that’s too hard to pull off where you are, think about doing a reading with, maybe, one author reading his or her own work (or work-in-progress), and then a few really good readers reading from the works of some of the classics. Black Beauty is one that springs to mind. (If it’s a copyrighted work and you intend to read a long excerpt and you want to be very cautious, you might want to get permission, which should not be hard to do). Maybe your local library would be willing to sponsor the event.

Of course, in addition to a formal reading series, if you’re part of a reading group, you can always recommend a book that changed your heart about animal issues. Maybe it’ll change a few more.






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(2) Readers Comments

  1. December 5, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Yes! My local vegetarian society hosted a children's storytime at a local library where the parents and older children read hand-selected (pro-animal, pro-environment, pro-vegan) books to the younger children ... we even had a couple kids wander in from the stacks. We also did two storytimes at the local vegetarian festival. Books can be powerful vehicles for change.

  2. Priscilla Rader
    December 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    My college (Pacific University near Portland, OR) had all entering freshman two years ago read "Eating Animals." This prompted a semester-long discussion of animal ethics in all first-year seminar classes for their first semester in college. A lot of civic engagement projects also focused on animal issues because of the spark. Yay for good choices!



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