“A Gentleman in Moscow” Chosen for One Read 2020

book cover for "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor TowlesThe community has chosen “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles for this year’s One Read event. The community is given the summer to read the book in preparation for related programming, including a tentatively planned virtual author talk, in September.

One Read provides opportunities for us to connect as a community, with a book as the catalyst for that connection,” said One Read co-chair Lauren Williams. “This book is a piece of historical fiction that lets us reflect on the past as well as on the present. It even allows us to discuss some topics that tie back to the pandemic, like isolation and resilience.”

Readers will be taken back to 1922, when a Bolshevik tribunal sentences Count Alexander Rostov to house arrest in the luxurious Hotel Metropol. For the next 30 years, the Count experiences his country’s upheaval and transformation from the confines of his attic room, the building’s grand public spaces and the behind-the-scenes domains of hotel employees-turned-friends. While Rostov cannot go out into the world, the world comes to him in the form of Nina, a bureaucrat’s precocious daughter; the film actress Anna Urbanova; American intelligence officer Richard Vanderwhile; and even political leaders like Nikita Khrushchev. This novel is a lightly drawn, episodic portrait of Russia’s 20th century political history, as well as a charming tale of one man’s dedication to family, memory and home.

Author Amor Towles earned his MA in English from Stanford University, but he worked as an investment professional for 20 years before devoting himself full time to writing. Published in 2016, “A Gentleman in Moscow” was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for over a year in hardcover and was named one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. The book has been translated into over 35 languages including Russian and is being developed into a 16-hour miniseries starring Kenneth Branagh.

Last November, the library received 160 suggestions for what to read in 2020, and this April, 454 people voted for their preferred title. The One Read reading panel, made up of community members from Boone and Callaway Counties and library staff, narrowed the list of suggested books to 10. After reading each book, the committee selected two titles for the public to vote on in April. The other title considered this year was the novel “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore.

“As in past years, the Friends of the Columbia Public Library will fund the purchase of multiple copies of the One Read title for people to check out so anyone wanting to read it will be able to before September. While our buildings are closed, people can place a hold on the book online or by calling their library, then pick it up from the curbside pickup service in Ashland, Columbia or Fulton or at the Library-to-Go lockers in Hallsville and Holts Summit. It’s also available on CD and in downloadable formats,” said Kirk Henley, One Read co-chair.

Planning for related programming is already underway. “The One Read Task Force met earlier in May through Zoom to brainstorm program ideas. We talked about how to offer virtual programming, including film showings, the annual art exhibit and the popular panel discussion,” said Kat Stone-Underwood, One Read co-chair. “It promises to be another great year.”

One Read, now in its nineteenth year, is a community-wide reading program coordinated by Daniel Boone Regional Library and co-sponsored by a task force of local businesses, agencies, academic institutions and other groups that encourages adults of all ages to read and discuss a single book. More information about submitted titles and related One Read topics can be found at oneread.dbrl.org.