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A Morton book club is taking a new look at the classics

 Shannon Killion, a librarian at the Morton Public Library and creator of the new Required Reading Book Club.
Steve Stein
Shannon Killion, a librarian at the Morton Public Library and creator of the new Required Reading Book Club.

Classic books you may have had to read when you were in high school or college are the focus of a new book club at the Morton Public Library.

"I read them for the plots. Or for an assignment," said Shannon Killion, the library's digital services and programming coordinator, who created the new monthly Required Reading Book Club.

"I have a biology degree, so I'm not a literature person, but I enjoy reading the classics," Killion said. "I was curious as an adult, how I might think differently about these books now that I have life experiences.

"And I like talking to people about the classics. The characters I like, the characters I don't like. It was a chance to re-read the books."

The club is just two months old. It meets at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the mouth at the library, 315 W. Pershing St. So far the participants have been in the single digits, but Killion is hoping that will change.

The January book was "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck. The February book was "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding. Coming up are "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury in March and "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in April.

"So far, I've selected the books. We'll evaluate that after April," Killion said. "The authors have been all men and only women have participated. But there's been a variety of people, from a girl in her 20s to retirees. It hasn't been dull or quiet. Everyone is talking and contributing."

One thing she didn't expect, Killion said, is people reading the books so they can discuss them with their children or grandchildren if they need to read them in school.

So how have the discussions gone?

"We all felt 'Of Mice and Men' was a sad story," Killion said. "One thing that was discussed, something I didn't think about when I was younger, was the idea of George as the caregiver to Lennie and the stress that caused. That's a hot topic these days. Some people can identify with that because they're caregivers to their aging parents.

"Then there was the fact that there's only one woman character in the book, and she doesn't have a name. Her name was 'Curley's wife.' And she is killed. I didn't pay attention to that when I first read the book. I was in high school or college at the time."

As for "Lord of the Flies," Killion said, "People came prepared. They did research. Did you know that Stephen King was influenced by the book? Castle Rock was a place in 'Lord of the Flies', and he used Castle Rock in many of his books.

"And we discussed who was the more effective leader, Ralph or Jack. We looked at their leadership styles and compared it to current politics. Ralph got things done. He had better priorities. There were parallels to today and the book was written 70 years ago."

Killion still has her original copy of the book from 1990.

"My sister also read this copy book and we both had notes in the corners," she said. "I was more interested in the plot back then. The terror of what was happening to these boys and how they devolved."

People wishing to join in the discussion can go to the desk at Morton library and check out the book of the month. All that's needed is a library card.

If possible, sign up on the Morton library website "so I know how much bottled water and candy to bring," Killion said.

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