One Read, two choices

Monday, March 31, 2008 | 10:03 p.m. CDT; updated 4:15 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Starting Tuesday, voting for the 2008 communitywide One Read program book will be open to the community. For the program’s seventh year, the reading panel chose two finalists.

They are “The Whistling Season,” a fiction novel about family, rural community and education by Ivan Doig, and “Three Cups of Tea,” a nonfiction book about international education and charity by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin that takes place in 1993.

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In “The Whistling Season,” narrator Paul Milliron looks back from the 1950s to his childhood education in a one-room schoolhouse on the Montana prairie, One Read’s Web site states.

It summarized the book as the story of Paul’s widowed father who hires a housekeeper from Minneapolis who claims she “can’t cook but doesn’t bite” to care for him and his three boys. They get more than they bargained for when Rose Llewellyn shows up with her brother Morris Morgan in tow. When Morris takes over the school room, Paul receives the best education of his life. Told with great humor and eloquence, this novel brings to life the early 20th century American West.

“Three Cups of Tea” is summarized on the One Read Web site as the story of Greg Mortenson, who after a failed attempt to climb the mountain K2, ended up in a remote mountain village in Pakistan. Out of gratitude for the villagers’ assistance when he was lost and near death, he vowed to build a school. Fulfillment of this first promise leads Mortenson to organize the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As the book moves into the post-Sept. 11 world, the authors argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls.

These two books were chosen by the 14-member One Read panel, which includes members of the community, college staff, library employees and other interested parties.

The books are selected based on six considerations: notability of the author, encouragement of discussion, cross-generational appeal, diverse audience appeal, ease of readability and the availability of different formats. These criteria tie in closely with the goals of the program, including encouragement of reading and discussion.

“It’s a great opportunity to read a good book and have a whole community to discuss the book with,” said Sally Abromovich, One Read co-chairwoman. Now that the panel has chosen the two finalists, the choice is now in the community’s hands.

“It’s amazing how little control there is,” said Doyne McKenzie, One Read co-chairwoman. “They’re both great works. It’s really a win-win situation.”

The mid-Missouri community is invited to participate in the voting. While the books are at an advanced reading level, anyone interested is welcome, according to McKenzie.

Voting will take place Tuesday through April 18 across mid-Missouri, with most locations in Columbia. Voting stations will be in all of the Daniel Boone Regional Libraries and on the Bookmobile, in downtown Columbia at Cherry Street Artisan and the Peace Nook and at bookstores such as Nancy’s Trade-A-Book, Barnes & Noble and the MU Bookstore. Community members can vote online also, at

Once the votes have been counted, Abromovich and McKenzie will begin working on events corresponding to the community’s selection. The winner will be announced in June.

Since 2002, One Read has been hosted by the Daniel Boone Regional Library and has included author visits, discussions and events with themes similar to the chosen book.

In 2007, voters could pick from two fictional books, “Water for Elephants” by Sarah Gruen and “Zorro” by Isabel Allende. Gruen’s circus story won the most votes by a slim margin. But with two opposing genres in 2008, the outcome may be different.

“There are a lot of people who read one or the other,” Abromovich said.

On each ballot and on all the publicity encouraging voting are small summaries of each book, meant to guide the public to which story they might enjoy more, so residents don’t choose only based on genre.

“Right now, we just want people to decide which book they think they’d like to read,” McKenzie said.

The initial list of books was much longer, composed of suggestions submitted year-round by the community. In January, the collected list was narrowed to 10 that made up the “short list” that the panel investigated in-depth.

“When you get down to that final ten, they’re all really good,” Abromovich said.

The short list for the 2007 program included “Three Cups of Tea,” one of the final selections this year. “The Whistling Season” made its debut on the list this year.

Even though McKenzie said the panel would be pleased with either selection, she said she does have a favorite.

“I usually secretly prefer one or the other,” McKenzie said. “I usually pick the loser.”

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