On Wednesday the city announced that it’s bringing back the One Book, One New York program to get New Yorkers reading and support independent bookstores in the five boroughs, the New York Times reports. Starting in early March, residents from all corners of the city will be encouraged to read the same book, which will be chosen in an online vote from a small group of finalists. The five choices are: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah,” Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and Junot Díaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” But the first challenge the program faces is to get New Yorkers to agree on a book.
The program was attempted without the city’s involvement fifteen years ago but scrapped because, true to form, New Yorkers couldn’t agree on which book to choose. The Office of Media and Entertainment, which has been instrumental in finding opportunities for the film industry in the city, will be in charge of the program. Julie Menin, the agency’s commissioner, called the previous attempt a “cautionary tale” and hopes that strategies like checking in with other cities that have had success with the concept–Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle, for example–and tapping an advisory panel for the five final book suggestions will get the program on the right track this time. Readers will be able to vote online or at the interactive kiosks at subway stations for one of the five books.
The city-wide virtual book group was begun as a way to provide much-needed awareness–and business–for local independent bookstores; there’s only one in Staten Island, and zero in the Bronx. According to Menin, there is a “real economic development message in this, to promote independent bookstores. By having a shortlist of five books, it hopefully encourages people to read all five books before they vote. And to buy them. We want to be very supportive of these industries.”
The city is partnering with the website BuzzFeed on the program, and a handful of celebrity actors (Larry Wilmore, Bebe Neuwirth, William H. Macy, Danielle Brooks and Giancarlo Esposito) are getting involved, each promoting a different book during the voting month. There is an event planned in June featuring the winning selection’s author at the New York Public Library’s main branch as well as discussions and other and other book-related events. In addition, 4,000 copies of the final five ballot picks will be donated to more than than 200 library branches city-wide.
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