In the passenger seat of his grandma’s car, “Scoob” Lamar leaned back, closed his eyes and sighed.
Lamar had just seen a road sign that read “WELCOME TO ALABAMA THE BEAUTIFUL.” That sign, he thought, was beautiful.
The journey the young Black boy was about to embark on — as author Nic Stone writes in her novel “Clean Getaway” — made Columbus librarian Tori Hopper cry. Set in the years of segregation in the South, she said, the book tells the story of Lamar and his grandmother’s use of the Green Book — a segregation-era guide for African Americans — to travel to civil rights “hotspots.”
“It was just so heartwarming, so very uplifting and educational,” Hopper said of the novel. “It didn’t shy away from the hard topics, but it didn’t make them graphic either.”
Now, in her own voice, Hopper will share the book — her favorite of 2020 — with many of the library’s readers and beyond.
Hopper and her co-host Nicole Minor, both librarians at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, are launching a book recommendation podcast today, titled “Worth Reading Wednesdays.” Each episode runs 45 to 60 minutes long, Hopper said, and they plan to record a total of 20 to 22 episodes for a season. By Tuesday, they had recorded four episodes.
In each episode, Hopper said they would discuss their favorite books and the topics those books touch upon. The talks range from race relations to the passing of “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, she said, and they would also recommend online resources to readers at the end of the show in addition to print materials.
“There are just different things that we are seeing in our daily scrolls through our screens that we think other people will be interested in,” she said. “We are just having fun. … We are really chilling at work.”
The name “Worth Reading Wednesdays” jumped into Hopper’s mind when she thought of hosting a midweek show, Hopper said.
“I felt like it would give somebody something to look forward to in the middle of the week, get you over that hump,” she said.
Hopper said she was inspired by the podcasts of the New York Public Library, where librarians share their thoughts about books on “The Librarian is in” and “Library Talks.” Those podcasts made her feel like a patron there in New York, Hopper said, and she hopes “Worth Reading Wednesdays” make some readers feel the same.
“I just really wanted to recreate something like that for our patrons, and for the people who don’t know anything about the (Columbus) library,” Hopper said. “(Maybe) they’ve never set foot in one of our library branches. Now they don’t even have to. We can come to them.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hopper said the podcast could also reach beyond the library’s regulars and offer them a safe option.
“As a podcast listener myself,” Hopper said, “I feel like I’m in a safe space because I feel in a sense that I’m listening to my friends talk in the room next to me, and I can get a lot done.”
Minor said Hopper’s passion for books moved her, and she, too, has had a passion for books since she was a “little girl.” Through the podcast, Minor said she wants to show readers just what kind of books they can offer.
“I want people to be able to understand the power of the library, the power of books,” Minor said. “I believe that books rule the world.”
The weekly podcast is now available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor, Breaker, Pocket Casts and RadioPublic.
Yue Stella Yu was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.