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U-M units forming book groups for Ann Arbor Reads

Even before it has been officially kicked off, the community-wide Ann Arbor Reads project has made "Abraham Lincoln's DNA and Other Adventures in Genetics" the area's best-selling non-fiction title.
Courtesy Karthleen Murrel, Life Sciences Values and Society Program

Across the U-M campus, groups are forming and buying boxes of the book to begin reading about and discussing the coming age of genetic technology and the difficult ethical questions it will spawn. "Just getting people together to talk about these issues is a great goal," says Aaron Goldenberg of the Life Sciences Values and Society Program, which is coordinating the read with the Ann Arbor District Library.

Established reading groups in town are taking up the book, as are newly formed groups in churches and synagogues. All will learn about and then discuss such things as cloning replacement pets and humans, growing animals
for human organ transplants, genes and behavior, genetic privacy, and genetic testing.

At U-M, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) has purchased 500 books to distribute to students and staff, Goldenberg says. Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) is forming groups with its students, and many undergraduate courses will read sections of it, Goldenberg says. Development and communications staff members from LSA have formed a group, as have the University News Servicepublishers of the Recordand the School of Public Health.

Brianne Haven, a waste reduction specialist in the Office of Waste Management, is participating in a slightly different kind of book group. Her mother-in-law, Stone High School Principal Gayl Dybdahl, gave the book to eight adults in the family for Christmas with plans for a family retreat in February to discuss the is
sues. "We said, 'it's not a gift; it's homework!'" Haven recalls, but she and other family members, ages 18 to "the 60s," are looking forward to the exchange. Dybdahl says her high school students also will read the book and participate in small group discussions and community forums.

Workers at Pfizer's Global Research and Development facility on Huron Parkway also are being encouraged to join discussion groups at work.

The book was chosen for its comprehensive overview of the life sciences revolution now underway, as well as for being accessible to a variety of readers and touching on the social and ethical implications of the science, Goldenberg says. Similar community reads have occurred in more than 100 places around the country in recent years, but Ann Arbor seems to be the first to have chosen a non-fiction title, he says.

Author Philip R. Reilly will come to Ann Arbor this week and make appearances at Pfizer, Rackham Auditorium and an invitation-only gala kickoff party at the Hands-On Museum. A signing and lecture will be held at the Downtown Borders store at 3 p.m. Jan. 22, and that evening he will speak at Rackham Auditorium, from 6:30—8 p.m. Reilly, who is a physician and a lawyer and the CEO of a major biotechnology firm in Waltham, Mass., helped write and publish a study guide for the reading groups, Goldenberg says.

More information on how to form a group, and a schedule of public lectures and discussions about the readings, can be found on the Ann Arbor Reads Web site at http://www.aareads.org. Copies of the book are available in libraries and area bookstores. The downtown Borders and Shaman Drum have additional books on order.

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