COLUMBIA — The people of Columbia have spoken. Ivan Doig’s novel “The Whistling Season” has been selected for the 2008 One Read program, beating Oliver Relin’s nonfiction work “Three Cups of Tea” by a vote of 299 to 254.
“I think that when (the public) voted, they chose between a fiction and a nonfiction book,” said Sally Abromovich, One Read panel co-chair. “I think they chose the fiction because it looked like a good story.”
Every year, the public submits suggested titles for the One Read program. Of the 192 titles suggested this year, the reading panel made up of 14 residents of Boone and Callaway counties chose 10 books. It narrowed the list from there.
This year, the panel presented two choices for a public vote. “Three Cups of Tea” is the true story of mountain climber Greg Mortenson, who built more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The Whistling Season,” Doig’s novel, is the story of narrator Paul Milliron’s experiences in an early-1900s one-room schoolhouse in rural Montana and the education he was given by the enigmatic Morris Morgan, who became his teacher.
In preparation for the One Read program, the Daniel Boone Regional Library bought nearly 600 copies of “The Whistling Season,” said Doyne McKenzie, One Read panel co-chairwoman. One hundred of these will go into “discussion bags,” which aid book clubs. The rest will be put on the shelves at all four regional library branches for participants to check out on a first-come-first-served basis.
“It’s a good opportunity for people who enjoy reading good books to get together and talk about them and to learn more about the subjects of whatever the particular book covers,” Karen Entrikin, a reading panel member, said.
Abromovich said in spite of the book’s being set nearly a century ago, “The Whistling Season” may have a particular resonance with Columbia residents, as it touches on issues the city and community are dealing with today.
“In this book, they’re talking about consolidation of schools, and we talk about consolidation of schools,” Abromovich said. “The book is about education, and education is at the forefront of a lot of people in Columbia’s minds right now.”
This is not the first time a city has selected Doig’s work for a community reading program. The book has been featured as a statewide read in South Dakota, as well as in Loveland, Colo., and Corvallis, Ore.
“(In Corvallis), students were running seminars in coffee shops early in the morning for patrons who wanted to learn about ‘The Whistling Season,’” Doig said. “So the wonderful sense of literary fellowship is what comes across to me when communities do this kind of reading.”
Programs and discussion groups for this year’s One Read selection will begin after Labor Day.
McKenzie said the group is hoping to have a program at the planetarium at Rock Bridge High School because Halley’s Comet plays a role in the book.
“Some stargazing would be fun,” she said.
McKenzie said a month’s worth of programs, including music programs and an art show, are also in the works; an estimated 2,760 people attended last year’s programs.
Abromovich said opportunities to discuss “Three Cups of Tea” will also be available.
She said the primary goal of the program is to get people to read and discuss.
“My hope is that many, many people in Columbia will be reading this book, and you can go almost anywhere and find someone to discuss the book with,” Abromovich said.
In addition to the themes and patterns in his writing, Doig says he hopes One Read participants will find the essence of a certain Missouri writer in his work.
“I hope Columbia and the good people of Missouri will take some of the fun from the book,” Doig said. “I hope there’s a little bit of the spirit of Mark Twain there.”