The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It is the cornerstone of our democracy, our judicial system and our political culture. The principles its creators laid down in 1789 are still the guiding lights of our nation.
Really, though, how much do average citizens know about our most sacred document? Regardless, they're about to learn more.
Through its eighth annual One Book Sacramento program, the Sacramento Public Library will open the book on our Constitution, making it more accessible and reader-friendly than ever. As Benjamin Franklin observed, "The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."
"As a presidential election year, 2012 is the ideal time to foster community conversations about our nation's foundational document," said library director Rivkah Sass.
The highlights of this year's One Book Sacramento will be appearances by constitutional scholars Richard Beeman, author of the annotated "Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution," and Christopher Phillips, author of "Constitution Cafe."
Both will appear at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., adjoining the downtown Central Library. Beeman will speak at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27; Phillips is set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18.
Beeman will discuss U.S. presidential elections, democracy and the media in his talk, "Sex, Lies and the Founding Fathers."
"The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution" also includes the constitutional amendments, Declaration of Independence and an examination of "crucial Supreme Court cases" (Penguin, $12, 224 pages). It is described as "a marvel of accessibility and erudition."
Beeman is a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and author of six books and dozens of articles on the history of revolutionary America. His biography of Patrick Henry was a finalist for the National Book Award.
For Phillips' appearance, The Sacramento Bee will partner with the Sacramento Public Library to co-host a special edition of the Bee Book Club. Phillips will discuss his goal to "generate a new, nationwide Constitutional Convention to help Americans better understand and challenge our most fundamental freedoms."
In "Constitution Cafe," the author "sets off on a rollicking cross-country junket to engage Americans of all stripes to rewrite the Constitution. Those 'framers' weigh in with wild and worthwhile ideas about how our nation should be governed" (W.W. Norton, $15.95, 336 pages).
Phillips is a senior fellow in the critical writing program at the University of Pennsylvania, leader of the Constitution Café and Socrates Cafe dialogue groups, executive director of the nonprofit Democracy Cafe, and author of five other books.
One Book Sacramento, continuing through October, asks everyone in our community to read the same book(s) and participate in events online and at library branches, schools and other venues. Constitution-themed programs will be tailored to adults, teens and children, and will include hands-on activities, special exhibits, crafts programs, live performances, films, music, writing projects, group readings and book discussions.
Among the special events will be "An Evening with Thomas Jefferson," 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, starring actor Steve Edenbo.
Another event will feature a panel of scholars and nonpartisan political experts who will explain details of this year's California ballot measures in "Ballot Measures Demystified," 6 p.m. Oct. 17 in the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria.
Also, author Judie Panneton will be at three library branches Oct. 10, 17 and 20, discussing "Proud Americans: Growing Up as Children of Immigrants" CreateSpace, $12.95, 258 pages).
The free "One Book Sacramento Program Guide" to all activities and events is available at all 28 library locations. Included is a book-discussion guide for reading groups and suggested reading lists for children, teens and adults.
For a complete schedule and more information: www.saclibrary.org.
Upcoming ones include:
Jenny Lundquist for "Seeing Cinderella," 1 p.m. Saturday at the Rancho Cordova Library, 9845 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 264-2700.
Carleen Brice for "Orange, Mint and Honey," which was made into a Lifetime TV movie titled "Sins of the Mother." She will be at the Del Paso Heights Library at 2 p.m. Sept. 29; 920 Grand Ave., Sacramento; (916) 264-2700.
James Kilgore for "Prudence Couldn't Swim," 7 p.m. at Sol Collective, 2574 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 369-5510.
All about Abe
Look for three Abraham Lincoln-centric titles:
"Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever" by Bill O'Reilly (Henry Holt, $28, 336 pages): This step-by-step book re-creates the vivid pre- and post-scenarios of President Lincoln's murder. Dramatic history made fascinating.
"The Lincoln Letter" by William Martin (Forge, $25.95, 448 pages): In this historical thriller, two treasure-seekers search for Lincoln's personal diary.
"The Lincoln Conspiracy" by Timothy L. O'Brien (Ballantine, $26, 368 pages): In a second historical thriller, two elusive documents indicate Lincoln's assassination was the result of a far-reaching conspiracy.
LET US KNOW
If you have information on author appearances or other book-related special events, email it to bookmarks @sacbee.com at least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to www.sacbee.com/books. Questions? Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.