Editorial: Journey with Atticus for Concord Reads

Friday, March 30, 2018

It all began with Thornton Wilder in 2002, when the Concord Reads program invited the city to read The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Sixteen years later, local readers are still turning pages together.

Known nationally as “One Book, One Community,” Concord Reads aims to create a super-sized book club that serves the dual purposes of celebrating the written word and uniting neighbors. This year’s selection is Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan.

For dog lovers who have spent time hiking in or merely gazing at the White Mountains, the book’s premise is irresistible: After the death of a friend from cancer, Ryan decides to pay tribute to her, and raise money for the Jimmy Fund, by hiking New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-foot peaks twice within 90 days – all with his adventurous miniature schnauzer, Atticus M. Finch. 

Ryan’s pedigree as a newspaperman is clear in the book’s tight, conversational prose: “Little Atticus had taken the lead, strong gusts be damned, and was ducking his head and floppy ears into each gust, marching forward with a sideways catch – like John Wayne. At that moment I’d never felt more love for him or more pride in him. He was my ineluctable hero, there, as always, to lift my spirits and astonish me and even at times make me laugh. He wasn’t supposed to be made for those kinds of conditions, and yet there he was, not only up there but leading the way – leading me to safety. He marched on inexorably toward the two peaks. How could I not follow? How could I not be lifted by his persistence?”

On Thursday, April 19, at 7 p.m., Ryan will be at Red River Theatres with his dogs to discuss the book and answer questions from the audience. Concord Public Library cardholders are invited, but registration is required. To register, visit the library’s web page at concordpubliclibrary.net/concordreads.

For those who haven’t yet read Following Atticus, there’s plenty of time to do so before the 19th. The book, audiobook and e-book can be checked out at the library, and copies can be purchased at area bookstores. 

Getting lost in a book, fiction and nonfiction alike, is one of life’s great joys. We hope everyone will join Tom and Atticus on their journey, while at the same time helping to propel Concord Reads toward its third decade of uniting the community through a single shared story.