Rockland Public Library, 80 Union St., has been selected by the Maine Humanities Council to offer Let’s Talk About It, a free reading and discussion group with copies of books available through the library. This program is provided by the Maine Humanities Council’s Maine Center for the Book in cooperation with the Maine State Library.

The series — Making a Difference: How Love and Duty Change Lives — will begin Tuesday, May 23, at 6 p.m. in the library’s Community Room and continue for five sessions, through Sept. 26.

Scientists tell us that compassion and empathy are what make us human, are what distinguish us from all other animals. From infancy, we learn to see out of others’ eyes, to appreciate their difficulties and their needs. What happens, though, when we are called to act upon what we perceive as our duty, especially when such action entails considerable sacrifice? Confronted with questions of duty, responsibility and service, we choose how best to demonstrate our humanity.

Books to be read and discussed in this series include “Plainsong” by Kent Haruf; “Truth and Beauty: A Friendship” by Ann Patchett; “The Late George Apley” by J.P. Marquand; “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder; and “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. Mary Alice Brennan, a scholar provided by the Maine Humanities Council, will facilitate the discussions.

Brennan is a former teacher, educational administrator and book editor. In addition to being a discussion facilitator for the Maine Humanities Council's Let's Talk About It program, she has had years of experience with another Council program, New Books, New Readers, which focuses on children's literature-based book discussions with new adult readers.

“Exploring ideas and issues through literature has a unique and fun way of creating community,” said Nicole Rancourt, director of Let’s Talk About It. “We find that there is great interest among adults in getting together to discuss what they’ve read with others. Having a discussion leader who is both excited about the readings and skilled in facilitating can help to deepen this experience.”

Books for the program will be available for loan at the library, so those interested are encouraged to call the library at 594-0310 to register and get on the list for the first book of the series, “Plainsong.” Haruf’s novel is set in a small town on the high plains of Colorado, but it could be any small town in the United States, peopled by characters familiar to all of us. In a spare, simple style, Haruf sets forth timeless conflicts and concerns when a high school student gets pregnant, is evicted by her mother and needs to find a place to live. With the help of a teacher, she finds a home with two bachelor farmer brothers. The responses of individuals and the community to those in need form the heart of this impressive novel.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or