Going ALL-IN

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Lately I've been fiddling around with the fun new gauntlet thrown down by the good folks at Indiana Humanities. They concocted a series of online challenges to expand their mission of "connecting people, opening minds and enriching lives by encouraging people to think, read and talk."

At their nifty website, you can Explore, Discover, Read, Remember, Participate, Connect, Reflect and Dream, as each of those areas challenge you individually and let you connect and challenge others virtually in your school, team, organization, company or ZIP code.

Staying true to my literary bent, I took up the Read challenge first, and I learned a lot from just a short course of activities.

Basic Challenge

Your first mission, should you choose to accept it, is to "Tell us about a book character who you'll never forget."

"Wow," I thought, "so many good ones." But for the operative words of one that I'll "never forget," I have to go with Rob Fleming from Nick Hornby's 1996 tour de force High Fidelity.

Whenever a friend complains, "I just don't understand men." I reply, "Read this book." Rob, the 30-something owner of a record store in London, is judgmental, self-consumed, petty, wallowing, hurt, jealous, lost and insecure. In short, he's a guy. And we, the readers, get to experience his internal monologue as he hashes out why he's unhappy in work, love and life.

High Fidelity is a book I managed to read long before the inspired transcontinental transformation into the solid 2000 film set in Chicago. Star John Cusack was a fan as well, producing and helping in the faithful screenplay adaptation. Lines like these are verbatim.

Yes, the film is stellar, but still, read the book.

Advanced Challenge

ALL-IN's next mission asks you to "Donate or give someone a book: friend, stranger, organization or kid." With the demise of World Book Night, there's an even greater impetus to do this.

Here's my addenda to that challenge: Go to a local bookstore like Indy Reads Books on Mass Ave or Bookmamas in Irvington, for example, buy a book and then give it to someone. This way, you're supporting a local, independent business, and you're spreading literacy. And giving books for birthday presents, while still encouraged, doesn't count. To fulfill this challenge, just give someone a book.

I picked up a copy of Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and dropped it off in the Sanitary Diner coffee shop at Angie's List where I work. I attached a note saying, "This book is free for you to take if you 1) did not read a book last year, 2) have not ready any Vonnegut and 3) promise to read it and drop it off somewhere with a similar note."

Extras

The Read section also compels you to Know your Indiana authors and Find a library near you. I'd add that every citizen should have a public library card in his or her wallet or purse right next to a voter registration card.

And back to that first dictum, Indiana boasts a bevy of homegrown and adopted authors to discover. You get to vote for your favorite as the last activity in the section from these writers.

· Meg Cabot
· Philip José Farmer
· John Green
· Etheridge Knight
· Meredith Nicholson
· Gene Stratton-Porter
· James Whitcomb Riley
· Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
· Jessamyn West

Currently, the author of Slaughterhouse Five is beating the Vlog Brother, but you can change that.

So, how about it? Are you up the challenge? Are you ALL-IN?

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