One Read 2010

by Doyne McKenzie, Collection Development Manager
Originally published by Columbia Daily Tribune.

After the One Read book announcement on June 15, readers flocked to Daniel Boone Regional Library branches to check out this year’s selected title, “Await Your Reply” (Ballantine Books, 2009), a psychological thriller by Dan Chaon. It is a fascinating, well-crafted novel.

The other two 2010 One Read contenders also are worth a read. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” (Little, Brown 2007) by Sherman Alexie is a young adult semi-autobiographical novel, and “Stoner” — originally published in 1966 and republished by New York Review Books in 2003 — by John E. Williams is a novel about a professor at the University of Missouri between World War I and 1955.

Before the three leading titles went to public vote, a reading panel of community members considered seven other community-suggested finalists. The panel divided these selections between nonfiction and fiction titles. Below are descriptions of those books to help you select other enjoyable reading materials. All of them can be checked out at the Columbia Public Library.

Both “Fifty Miles from Tomorrow” (Sarah Crichton Books, 2009) by William L. Iggiagruk Hensley and “The Places In Between” (Harcourt, Inc., 2006) by Rory Stewart are memoirs. Hensley’s tale of growing up in Alaska parallels the state’s progression toward statehood. At age 15, he was separated from his American Indian family to attend boarding school in Tennessee and then George Washington University. Upon return to Alaska, he was intimately involved in the radical land settlement scheme to grant all Alaska’s native people shares in regional corporations rather than setting up reservations. In contrast, Scottish journalist Stewart presents a travelogue of his January 2002 journey across Afghanistan as he follows the Mughal Emperor Babur’s track through the mountains from Herat to Kabul. By relating in detail his encounters with villagers, headsmen and Taliban leaders, he informs the reader of the customs, the rugged landscape and the people themselves.

In "The Art of Racing in the Rain” (Harper, 2008) by Garth Stein, a dying Lab-terrier mix named Enzo tells his story beginning with his adoption by Denny Swift. Although Enzo and Denny’s passion is racing cars, Denny must sideline his vocation to support his family, care for his dying wife and then enter into a custody battle with his in-laws after his wife’s death. As he relates events, Enzo adds observations on human and canine life and shares his wish to be reborn as a human race-car driver.

Like semifinalist "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian", "Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man” (Warner, 1992) by Fanny Flagg is a rollicking coming-of-age novel. Protagonist Daisy Fay is left in the care of her unreliable, alcoholic father and his best friend after her parents’ marriage fails. Using Shell Beach on the Gulf Coast as a backdrop, Flagg weaves substories involving Daisy’s father’s friend Jimmy, the debutante coach Ms. Dot, and costume and set designer Mr. Cecil, who teach Daisy Fay about herself and life.

Both 2006 Bellwether Prize winner "Mudbound, a Novel" (Algonquin, 2003) by Hillary Jordan and "Winter’s Bone" (Little, Brown, 2006) by Daniel Woodrell also are set in the South, but they weave stories around the effects of uncomfortable living conditions and inclement weather on people’s lives. Jordan’s novel centers on two families on Mississippi Delta farms in 1946; the McAllans are the white landowners, and the Jacksons are the black sharecroppers. Each family has a veteran readapting to the South and Jim Crow laws. Henry McAllan’s passion to farm cotton has thrown his refined wife, Laura, into an existence she never expected. Instead of living in Memphis, she finds herself in an uncomfortable shack in the bottomland with two small children, an irascible father-in-law and a charming cad brother-in-law. Brother-in-law Jamie McAllan’s friendship with Ronsel Jackson leads to trouble and tragedy.

The gritty “Winter’s Bone” takes place in the Ozarks in the winter. Father Jessup Dolly pledged the family’s shack and acreage as bond after being arrested for cooking methamphetamine. But he jumped bail, and his teenage daughter Ree must find him so she can save her family’s home. She longs to escape the Ozarks by joining the Army but is too young. Instead, Ree tends her mentally ill mother, tries to steer her younger brothers away from a life of crime and embarks on a quest to find her father, dead or alive. Her search takes Ree across the hills seeking help from various relatives, including her criminal Uncle Teardrop.

Pulitzer Prize-winning “Olive Kitteridge” (Random House, 2008) by Elizabeth Strout could be titled “Crosby, Maine.” This novel in 13 stories is set in the small Maine coastal town with crusty, overbearing Olive appearing in each story, if only tangentially. The resulting image Strout creates is of an aging woman with all her flaws among a few positive attributes. Olive’s obsession with the deterioration of her hamlet diverts her attention from problems in her life.

Each year, the process of selecting a One Read title uncovers many great works. We invite you to read "Await Your Reply” with the rest of the community, and please join the library staff and One Read task force in September as we present a visit from Chaon and other programs related to “Await Your Reply.” We will also host discussions of runners-up “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and “Stoner”.

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