One Book One Community voting begins today

Photo by Norman Schimmel

2012 was already shaping up as an epic election year — now, thanks to the library system, you’ve got one more decision to make.

Starting today, June 1, the Sarasota County Library System is asking county residents to vote for one book that they’d like to see the entire community read together, with programming events around the eventual winner scheduled to kick off this fall.

The One Book One Community program has run “almost every year since 2003,” according to libraries Outreach Coordinator Barb McDonald, but this is only the third time the library system has held a popular vote to see which book should be selected. One of the goals of the program is to “develop a sense of community around the shared experience of reading and talking about one great book,” and how better to start that conversation than by letting citizens have a say in choosing what to read?

This year, narrowing down the daunting list of proposed books to just six was surprisingly easy, says McDonald, who did research on the submissions before turning the process over to the book selection committee, made up of community members from different arts organizations, publications and nonprofits.

After that, “we start debating, and spend just hours talking about which books we think would promote the most dicusssion among people of all ages in our community,” McDonald says. “In years past, we’ve had to throw all of the ideas back into the ring and start over again. But this year, it just moved really well. We had a lot of heated discussion, but we were able to come up with our six finalists pretty easily.”

Past titles selected by the community include Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and Suzanne Collins’ publishing phenom The Hunger Games. This year’s list of finalists includes David Mitchell’s civilization- and century-spanning Cloud Atlas; Jesymn Ward’s Hurricane Katrina drama Salvage the Bones; Eowyn Ivey’s Alaskan wilderness fable The Snow Child; Lawrence Hill’s abolitionist recreation Someone Knows My Name; Laura Hillenbrand’s nonfiction survival tale Unbroken; and Unholy Night, the latest fiction maship from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter author Seth Grahame-Smith.

Voting is simple: Cast your ballot online or at any of the nine county libraries or downtown Sarasota’s Bookstore1. And you can’t complain about a deadline: You have till Aug. 31 to make up your mind. Book-themed discussions, community forums and more will events hit various locations come October.

McDonald isn’t worried about the lack of a clear “young adult” title among the finalists. She says past participation numbers were in the thousands just among library users and students at the local universities, so while schools play a role in the program, the goal is to involve readers of all ages. Besides, most teens are more than capable of tackling the titles on the list.

McDonald says there’s no clear early favorite in this year’s competition. “I have no idea how the voting is going to go,” she says.

So choose your book wisely, and remember: Don’t be swayed by any big-spending literary super PACs.