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Orem Reads

Welcome to Orem Reads 2021

Each year the librarians at the Orem Library pick one book to read as a community. For Orem Reads 2021 we travel to the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina for The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb. See below for a full line up of events, supplemental resources, and to find out how you can receive a free copy of the book. All Orem Reads events are part of the 24th Annual Utah Humanities Book Festival. Our thanks to the Book Festival’s major sponsors.

This year for Orem Reads we travel to the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina for The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb. Based on actual events, this true story of an 18-year-old frontier girl, hanged for murder in Burke County North Carolina in 1833, is a stirring tale of mountain justice, but it is also a study of contrasts between the “mountain south” of log cabins and trappers and the “flat land south” of plantations. The magic in this story is that the author brings to life people who have been dead for more than a century, making us care about the fate of one young girl who should not have been sentenced to death.

Many university classes have studied this book—in surprising places. At the University of Colorado, Frankie Silver was taught in the Anglo-Hispanic Relations class, where the Hispanic students identified with the treatment of Frankie as a minority. The Keene School in Keene New Hampshire studied the book, and those students also identified with Frankie, saying that if someone from New Hampshire committed a crime and was sent to be tried in Boston, they would be treated the same way today (because NH is a mountain region, and Boston was settled by flatland English). The book was also studied in the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia as an example of how law was practiced on the 19th-century frontier, and how poor people fared in the judicial system.

Pick up your free copy of this New York Times Notable Book and bestseller at the adult general reference desk starting September 7 and join us as we explore the legends, natural wonders, history, culture and contemporary issues of Appalachia.

For more information on The Ballad of Frankie Silver, visit

Orem Reads is Orem Public Library’s community-wide reading event. It began in February of 2007.  The National Endowment for the Arts had just finished extensive research in how readers impact their lives and communities for the better.  Their research showed that “reading for pleasure reduces stress, heightens empathy, improves students’ test scores, slows the onset of dementia, and makes us more active and aware citizens. Book clubs and community reading programs extend these benefits by creating opportunities to explore together the issues that are relevant to our lives.”

They created a program called “The Big Read” to help communities promote reading among teens and adults by hosting a community-wide reading event.

Seed money ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 was made available through a national competitive grant process. Orem Library applied and was awarded three years in a row for our 2007, 2008, and 2009 programs. Now that our community reading program has successfully launched, we have continued the program on our own. In 2009, the library received an award from the Utah Humanities Council for excellence in programming.

As we look back, we remember many fun programs and enlightening discussions with some terrific authors and presenters. Please join us this year as we celebrate the Appalachian novel, The Ballad of Frankie Silver.

Free copies of The Ballad of Frankie Silver can be picked up at the general reference desk starting September 7 or at any Orem Reads program.

One copy per household.

Digital copies are also available for checkout here.

Orem Reads Events

September 7 | 7 PM | Ashton Auditorium

Storyteller Donald Davis

We are thrilled to host national storyteller Donald Davis for our Orem Reads kickoff. Donald is a Timpanogos Storytelling Festival favorite and hails from North Carolina.  Join us for a delightful evening of Appalachian folktales, tall-tales, and family stories. If you find you can’t get enough of Donald and storytelling, check out the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival at Thanksgiving Point, September 9-11.

September 13 | 7 PM | Ashton Auditorium

Mountain Country Band

Bluegrass music originated in Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is one of the original styles of American Roots music that emerged in the 1940s. It gets its name from the band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. After you’ve learned all about murder ballads and mountain music from librarian James Scarborough, you will be ready to experience it for yourself! Join us for an evening of top-tapping, hand-clapping country, folk, and bluegrass music provided by local favorite Mountain Country Band (source:

September 20 | 7 PM | Sorenson Legacy Room

A Taste of Appalachia

The mountain terrain of Appalachia prevented large scale farms, so the settlers grew only what they needed to feed their families. Corn, vegetables, pork, chicken, berries, apples, have been and continue to be regional favorites. Tonight celebrity chef Nancy Judd shares some mouth-watering recipes from Appalachian cuisine. Attendance is limited and registration is required. Register online at

Nancy is a fun, upbeat gal who has done many exciting things with food throughout her life.  She is passionate about creating and cooking delicious dishes. A former high school foods teacher, she also had her own cooking school for kids for five years in Austin, Texas and catered weddings, receptions and parties for over 38+ years while living in Minnesota and Texas. She had her own cooking TV show Fun with Foods in Minnesota that aired in a 5-state region. She has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, Food Network, and World Food Championships, winning the dessert category, and has won many state and regional competitions.

September 27 | 7 PM | Ashton Auditorium

Quilt Trunk Show

The isolation and hardship of mountain living brought Appalachian women together to stitch and bond over quilting projects. These quilts often expressed family history and local events, using patterns from Scottish, Irish, and German folk traditions blended with Native American, Amish, and Quaker influences. Join us as designer and quilter Heather Dunn shares some of her favorite quilts.

October 4 | 7 PM | Ashton Auditorium

Cemetery Secrets and Spine-Tingling Tales

Do you hold your breath when you pass a cemetery or leave an apple on the tree after harvest to ward off the devil? Do you shudder when you see a black cat or an owl in the day time? These are a few of the superstitions and folklore that abound in Appalachian culture. Brought to the region by Scottish, Irish, and German settlers in the 18th century, these practices and traditions were the foundation of the mountain way of life. Isolated by the mountain landscape from outside influences and education for hundreds of years, mountain people survived through passing down traditions, folk medicine, and stories (source:

Tonight we’ll celebrate the spooky folk tales of Appalachia with an evening of ghost stories with two of our favorite award–winning storytellers, Liz Sargent, and Steve Gashler. Liz hails from Twin Falls, Idaho and graduated in Creative Writing at BYU. Libraries have become a second home for Liz and you can find her helping kids at the Orem Library children’s desk, and on our children’s YouTube channel as a frequent storyteller. Stephen Gashler has been entertaining children and adults for over ten years through storytelling, stand-up comedy, and music. He’s been the featured performer at countless libraries, schools, festivals, and concerts, including the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

October 11 | 7 PM | Ashton Auditorium

Author Sharyn McCrumb

You’ve read the book, now meet the author! Sharyn McCrumb will read from her book The Ballad of Frankie Silver, provide some background, answer questions, and sign books. Additional novels by the author will be available for purchase before and after the event. Additional novels by Sharyn will be available for purchase onsite before and after Sharyn’s presentation from Printed Garden books.

Orem Reads Resources

As part of Orem Reads this year, we are featuring photography by Susan Kroupa in the large art gallery — located in the Children’s Wing of the library. This exhibit will be on display from September 1 to October 15. Susan’s work was photographed in the Appalachian region. Her images of the mountains, flora and fauna of Appalachia are breathtaking.