Voters pick circus tale for One Read

“Water for Elephants,” a piece of historical fiction, is the first current best seller to be selected.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:14 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Columbia has spoken.

“Water for Elephants,” by Sara Gruer, beat out “Zorro,” by Isabel Allende by a vote of 339-256 as the 2007 One Read book.

The 350-page novel tells the story of an old man, Jacob Jankowski, recounting his time in a circus during the 1930s, said Doyne McKenzie, co-chair of One Read and collection development manager for Daniel Boone Regional Library.

“It’s historical fiction, and I really like reading about the 1930s and the circuses at that time, because they’re so different from today,” said Sally Abromovich, co-chair of One Read and public services librarian for the library. “I liked how the story was told with the old man’s narrations and his flashbacks.”

The selection is the sixth since the One Read program’s start in 2002. Past books include “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card, and “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.

“‘Water For Elephants’ will be very popular with the community because of the many subjects covered, including the circus, Great Depression, communities and animal treatment,” Abromovich said. “This is the first time we’ve chosen a current best-seller as the One Read book.”

The announcement of the book marks the end of a six-month process that began in December.

“In December, we took public suggestions for our new book in 2007 and got 179 book titles,” McKenzie said. “The One Read panel then

quickly went through the list, talked about the book titles and read excerpts and reviews.”

After using a weighted vote to narrow down the 179 titles to 10, McKenzie said the panel read the books and voted again. Next, the top titles were voted on by the public. The winner met criteria set out by the One Read program, such as readability, length and discussion potential.

Anyone who wants to participate in the program can sign up at any branch of the Daniel Boone Regional Library or online at Those who sign up will receive peanuts and entry into a drawing for an autographed copy of “Water For Elephants.” The group will offer several programs this fall, including a program on the Great Depression in Missouri by Western Historical Manuscripts, a discussion panel and a planned appearance by the author.

The programs will be announced in August on One Read’s Web site.

The book is available at public libraries, the MU Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Nancy’s Trade-A-Book and other local bookstores, McKenzie said.

“I’d like to encourage everyone to come in and get a book,” Abromovich said. “Read the book, start talking and come to the programs in the fall.”

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