Curious Iguana Encourages Customers to Read Broader in 2017
To inspire customers to read books outside their comfort zones and to get to know the world around them, Curious Iguana bookstore in Frederick, Maryland, has launched the year-long Read Broader initiative.
The idea for Read Broader started in June, when Curious Iguana owner Marlene England was having coffee with a customer friend. “We were chatting about books (of course) and how important it is to read outside your comfort zone. She mentioned Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge, which I love,” said England. “Then the question became, how do we take a similar approach and make it specific to our local community and the Iguana’s mission of ‘Get to know your world’?”
Read Broader, “a self-directed reading adventure,” as the bookstore bills it, invites participating customers to read 20 books in 2017, drawing from seven categories: global voices, justice for all, peek into the past, LGBTQ+ perspectives, collections near and far, armchair adventures, and small press works in translation. Curious Iguana has provided suggestions for books in each category, but customers can also choose their own titles.
“I worked closely with one of our booksellers to develop categories that really spoke to our Read Broader theme and the Iguana’s mission. Identifying books that we wanted to feature wasn’t a problem — the challenge was narrowing the list to fit on two pages!” said England.
Many staff favorites ended up on the list, she added, including Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf), In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda (Anchor), The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez (Vintage), and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Crown).
Customers participating in the program will log the books they read throughout the year on their Read Broader checklist; those who complete 20 books by the end of the year can submit their list to be entered in a drawing to win a $50 Curious Iguana gift certificate.
To keep customers engaged with the program as the year progresses, the store will be e-mailing participants, mounting in-store displays, and hosting events. “We’re really fortunate to have strong partnerships with our county library system, local colleges, faith communities, and other businesses and non-profits who are helping us spread the word,” said England.
Events planned so far include a reading and signing with Harriet Levin Millan, author of How Fast Can You Run (Harvard Square Editions), and Michael Majok Kuch, the South Sudanese Civil War survivor whose life forms the basis of Millan’s novel. In the spring, a book swap will give Read Broader participants the opportunity to meet one another and chat about and swap books they’ve read so far.
“Several of the suggested titles are also being featured in our book clubs this year, and, of course, I’m trying to arrange plenty of author visits,” England added.
More than 100 participants have signed up for the Read Broader program so far. “Given that it’s a brand-new initiative for us, I would have been thrilled with a dozen or so sign-ups. I couldn’t be more pleased,” said England. “We’re already thinking about Read Broader 2018 and planning to add a Read Broader Jr. component for young readers.”