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Locals' alternate picks for Big Read

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The public library cranked up its "Big Read" project this week. It's their effort to get the city to read and discuss Harper Lee's wonderful To Kill A Mockingbird, a novel which, let's face it, if you haven't already read it or seen the movie, you're pretty much a goober. But hey, the city's full of goobers who rarely read anything, so let's be grateful for the library's commitment -- and for the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides funding for Big Read efforts nationwide.

It turn out, however, that To Kill A Mockingbird wasn't everyone's first pick for Charlotte's Big Read. In our dreams, we have acquired the results of a library survey of local celebrities, honchos and personalities, taken months ago, which asked for their Big Read suggestions. The celebs' choices and comments are instructive, so we've decided to print some of the survey results here.

• Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis -- The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells. I can't say enough good things about this great American classic. It's the story of a well-meaning businessman who has everything, but his poor (but well-meaning) decisions eventually lead to bankruptcy. But he was well-meaning! That's the important thing to remember.

• Carolina Panthers player Julius Peppers -- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I love this book! It's about a young man who is glad to ditch the small-time hicks he's been stuck with, in order to start a new life as a true bigshot, all because he has "great expectations" of the world. I consider this book a guide to life: Whenever you're not getting what you want, move on.

• Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers -- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I recommend this story of a sunny, electrifying man of science who wants to do the right thing, but insists on going through with an old, poisonous idea. Everyone can learn from this famous classic, set against the coal-smoke-choked background of 19th century London.

• Former United Way CEO Gloria Pace King -- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. My all-time favorite book, Atlas Shrugged, is about a courageous, misunderstood woman who comes to the realization that she must do things her own way and to hell with everybody else. It's written by the fantastic Ayn Rand, the woman who wrote The Virtue of Selfishness -- what's not to love about this book?

• Auto dealer Louis F. Harrelson -- Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller. Now this here is a good play: Death of A Salesman's about this man, see, who spends his life doing one thing: sellin', sellin', sellin'. He's mighty good at it, but things wind up not going too good for him. If y'all like stories that make you cry, get this one -- it'll plumb make you bawl your eyes out, and that's a Louis F. Harrelson guarantee!

• School Board Member Kaye McGarry -- Dare to Discipline by James C. Dobson. Sorry to pick a non-novel, but I firmly believe everyone should read this wonderful classic about giving your kids a proper Christian upbringing. If more people raised their kids as recommended by James "Beat-'em-till-they-scream-for-Jesus" Dobson, we wouldn't have so many queers in our schools promoting their agenda. There, I said it.

• Charlotte Bobcats part owner Michael Jordan -- The Little People by John Christopher. A parable for our time, The Little People is about a bunch of small people found living in a house. At first, they seem friendly, but pretty soon, it becomes obvious they're out to control the larger people's souls. I think of this book every time someone wants me to hang out with the riffraff at Bobcats games without paying me an appearance fee.

• Mayor Pat McCrory -- Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. It's a pleasure to recommend a novel about my hero (if a fictional character can be a hero), George Babbitt. The king of boosters, the sultan of back-slappers, Babbitt realizes that nothing is more important than promoting business, business and more business. Some people say this book is a satire of boosterism, but who would do such a sneaky, underhanded thing? Nobody down at the Rotary, I can tell you that.

• County Commissioner George Dunlap -- Big Mouth by Deborah Halverson. This is a great young adult book about a 14-year-old boy who wants to be a famous competitive eater, but deep down, it's really about doing and saying whatever suits your fancy at any time. In other words, it's a great way to get younger readers to follow my example on the path to big-mouthed success.

• Charlotte Motor Speedway bossman Bruton Smith -- How to Piss Off and Alienate the World by J. Kevin Curry. I demand that you use this book in the Big Read. It's supposedly a book of humorous essays, but somehow, something about it clicked for me -- what other reason do you need to pick it? Hurry up and decide, then call me when the deal is done. Otherwise, I'll sue you for everything you're worth.

(Note to the clueless: This is satire! Don't call!)

For full information on the library's The Big Read, go to http://blogs.plcmc.org/bigread/

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