LIVERMORE -- In an era of smartphones and on-demand television, getting engrossed in a book can be more difficult than ever.

For the seventh year, staff at the Livermore Public Library are doing their best to get locals excited about reading through Livermore Reads Together. A variation on "One Book, One City" efforts found across the country, the annual reading program has found success in promoting literacy.

"We get a good reaction to it," said Livermore librarian and program planner Joyce Nevins. "It's really to create a sense of community about reading, and it brings attention to the library."

More than just a large-scale book club, the program includes a series of free events at the Civic Center library throughout February, tied in with the theme of space exploration found in this year's selection, "Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void" by best-selling Oakland author Mary Roach. The book delves into the problems astronauts face during space flight, and how science tries to solve them. To follow along with a group of friends, the library offers book club kits for rental with six copies of the book and tips for leading a discussion.

Teens and young adults can get into the act by reading "Ender's Game," the sci-fi classic by Orson Scott Card. Younger children can also participate through the "Rocket Reader" game in which they can earn prizes for reading books about space.

To kick off the program, Roach herself will be the guest of honor for an hourlong speaking engagement at the library on Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. On Feb. 5, Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute will discuss looking for aliens and his book "Confessions of an Alien Hunter."

For film buffs, the Vine Cinema will host a free showing of Tim Burton's cult classic "Mars Attacks" in downtown Livermore on Feb. 9. The following day, Lawrence Livermore National Lab physicist Bill Craig, a manager for NASA's NuSTAR mission, will talk X-ray astronomy. On Feb. 12, Shakespeare's Associates will present a dramatic reading of "Packing for Mars."

Continuing the series, "Cooking for Geeks" author Jeff Potter explores the science behind cooking at a discussion on Feb. 16, and Chris Ford, of Pixar Animation Studios, will talk about the marriage of art and science on Feb. 21. World instrumental band The Venusians will perform at the library on Feb. 26. Other events geared toward youth include space-related arts and crafts, and origami. Registration for kids and teens begins Feb. 1.

Livermore Reads Together is fully funded by Friends of the Livermore Library. Participants don't have to read the books to attend the events, though, as Nevins said, it will add to the enjoyment.

"We try to put some fun things in there," said Nevins. "We don't want it all to be heavy."

For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit the Livermore Library online at www.cityoflivermore.net/citygov/lib.

Contact Jeremy Thomas at jethomas@bayareanewsgroup.com or follow him at twitter.com/jet_bang.

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