One Book One Town selection committee meetings are always interesting: We look at dozens of titles annually, each of which have their champions. Over the course of weeks and months a consensus begins to form around two or three titles and from there a decision is made. Most of us approach the idea of what makes a good ‘OBOT’ book differently – we each have our own preferred genres, our own diverse sensibilities about what makes for good reading, our own opinions on what would inspire conversation and our own ideas on which conversations we think our community should engage in and would benefit most from.
Once in a while, though, a book will emerge as a clear favorite right in the beginning. This was such a year. However, like every title that is eventually selected, there were some members of the committee who felt that the book just didn’t speak to them. Their initial indifference was invaluable to those of us who couldn’t put this book down. The doubts expressed are the same as some of those we’ve heard from a few people as we unveiled our choice two weeks ago:
“I don’t use Twitter.”
“I’m not really an Internet person.”
“That’s not my world…”
“That’s what happens when you go online…”
For those of us who have been, to put it mildly, obsessed with this book since those early meetings in June, these comments from our colleagues brought a necessary perspective to our decision process, and helped us clarify our thinking about the value of this story: To us, it’s not about technology. It’s about people. It’s about the way we behave when we think we are part of a crowd. It’s about the things we feel emboldened to say when we assume we are part of a majority, or that everyone around us shares our opinions, our way of thinking, and sometimes, our prejudices.
It’s about how quick we are to judge each other, how easily we indulge in outrage and how quickly we become offended, no matter how near or distant our actual proximity to the offensive person or thing.
Whether it occurs face to face over coffee, gossiping about rumors on the phone, chatting with neighbors at a school meeting, sharing opinions on Facebook or via the seeming anonymity of the comments section on a news site, the instincts remain the same, as do the potential pitfalls. The things we say can sometimes spiral out of our control. This is not something new, born of our increasingly digital culture, although it is certainly magnified by the speed and amplification of social networks. No: This is as old as communication itself.
When I first read this book, I was reminded of a brief scene in a movie based on a play from a few years ago, set in the 1950s, long before the Internet became a daily presence in our lives:
It’s not perfectly analogous, as shaming and gossip aren’t necessarily the same thing. But they are certainly connected, related in a way that should make us a bit uncomfortable.
Even if you think that this book has no bearing on your life, we encourage you to give it a try: we think it will surprise you. Of course, in the end it might not be ‘for you.’ Despite the ambitious name of this reading adventure, there really is no such thing as ‘One Book’ that literally everybody in this ‘One Town’ will love to read. We take our selection efforts very seriously and remain conscientious when choosing titles from season to season that we are building a roster of books that, taken together, we hope will be useful and inspiring for years to come. Nothing brightens our day more than hearing people talk about our past selections and the impact the act of reading them together has made, and will continue to make, on our community.
-Nicole, Teen Librarian & One Book One Town co-chair