Library picks book for 2013

lpemberton@theolympian.comSeptember 29, 2013 

Timothy Egan will talk about his book Tuesday in Olympia.


If there’s one book Timberland librarians hope you’ll reach for during the month of October, it’s “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis” by Seattle author Timothy Egan.

It’s the featured title for Timberland Reads Together 2013, the library district’s annual campaign to get the whole community to read one book together and discuss it.

“The ‘Timberland’ in Timberland Reads Together is all of us — your friends, your neighbors, your communities throughout Timberland’s five counties,” said Tim Mallory, adult programs coordinator. “Join them in reading one great book. Then join them at local libraries and other community gathering places for entertainment, inspiration and good company.”

The monthlong program kicks off at 7 p.m. Tuesday with a free presentation by Egan at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.

“Mainly I’m planning to tell the Curtis story when I’m in Olympia — how he set out to make Native Americans ‘live forever’ and, despite losing everything, ended up just doing that,” Egan said. “Also I’m going to show many of his pictures. Behind each of them is a terrific story.”

Books will be available to purchase, and Egan will sign copies after the program.

Throughout the month, more than 70 events based on or inspired by “Short Nights” have been scheduled at Timberland libraries. They include book discussions, stage adaptations performed by Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre, presentations by Native Americans, screenings of Anne Makepeace’s documentary “Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians,” photography workshops, and other events. All of the programs are free and open to the public.

Egan said he was a featured author in community one-book efforts for his “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” in Texas, the Midwest and New England, but this is the first time “Short Nights” has been selected for a program.

“This is the first for our region and this book about a famous Northwesterner,” Egan said. “I’m honored. You write to find an audience. And the Curtis story — how a man with a sixth-grade education produced the greatest photographic achievement, a masterpiece, in our history — is one of the better tales from our corner of the country.” Egan worked for The New York Times for 18 years as a Pacific Northwest correspondent and national enterprise reporter. He writes a weekly column for The New York Times blog, Opinionator, and is the author of seven books.

Egan said “Short Nights” grew out of his travels in Indian Country as a journalist.

Curtis was “revered by the tribes because, as many natives told me, he captured their humanity,” Egan said.

“When I looked behind the story, I was blown away — Curtis was friends with the rich and famous, Teddy Roosevelt was his mentor, and yet, he died a pauper having lost everything. This book is a portrait of an artist, in one sense, a tragedy in another.”

For more information on other Timberland Reads Together 2013 events, go to

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

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