Unity in the Community
Common Reads Titles That Bring Us Closer

BIC Director, Christie Hinrichs
When Books In Common
(Terra Com) was founded in 2001, Community Reading Programs as envisioned by pioneering Seattle Librarian Nancy Pearl were in their infancy. Since then, BIC has connected with thousands of literary programs across the globe, helping event planners as they face the sometimes daunting task of selecting the perfect book for their communities, partnering with the author, and ensuring that their specific goals are met and exceeded----year after year. We focus on these important programs because we passionately believe that building common ground around literature is one of the best ways to bridge the divide among race, religion, socio-economics, sexual orientation, politics, and cultural identities. 

Now, more than ever, these objectives are at the forefront of our work. As a nonprofit literary events consultancy, we are in the unique position of being able to approach each program holistically. We want to know who your readers are, what they care about, and how we can help you identify a title that will resonate with the community at large. As lifelong readers and patrons of literature ourselves, we aren't swayed by the demands of the publishing market, but instead seek to collaborate with each program and advocate on their behalf to ensure an enriching and transformative experience!

What factors are at play when selecting the right title for your community?

American Library Association
We Have a Booth!
Books In Common will be at the American Library Association annual conference in San Francisco, June 26-29. Come check out our booth and learn more about Books In Common. We'd love to talk books with you because as is our motto the end of the book is the beginning of the conversation. Find us at booth # 3115. We'll have lots of give-aways, goodies, and some review copies of our favorite Common Reads titles. 


Celebrate National Adoption Month this November

Regina Calcaterra, author of
Etched in Sand

Looking for fall programming that brings your community together around one social issue? Thousands of children in the American foster care system today are awaiting forever homes. Adoptive and foster parents provide security and stability to children and give them the opportunity to learn, grow and achieve their full potential. Advocating for these youngest members of our society is a wonderful cause to rally your community around. November is National Adoption Month, and with it comes many programming opportunities and ideas, including bringing in an engaging author who can lend a powerful voice to the children who need to be heard, now more than ever. 


 Read the whole article


One Book, One Philadelphia

Kalela Williams, One Book, One Philadelphia program coordinator, spoke with Books In Common about the program and how it has grown and evolved for over 12 years.

One Book, One Philadelphia started in 2003, what do you believe is the key for keeping a program such as yours going strong for over a decade?
I think the primary key is having strong support and backing from the organization that is sponsoring the program, whether it's a library, university, or other non-profit. Without leadership fully vested and committed to the project, you can't go far in terms of securing the funding and resources you need, allocating time to the program, etc. Having enough funding is also key, whether it's from individual donors, corporate sponsorships, or collaborating with other organizations to share some of the costs. And of course, experienced and most importantly, committed staff is also key. For large-scale programs like a community read, you're going to be working late nights and early mornings-you've got to have staff who are willing to put in the time! 

What did you learn from last year's program that is helping you this year? What are you changing, what worked well?
This is my third year as coordinator of One Book, One Philadelphia and each year I learn something new. The most important thing I learned in 2014 that helped with 2015 was to reach out to specific audiences who might be interested in certain One Book programs, and not to rely on general One Book promotion. What I mean is this: One Book, One Philadelphia is one of the Free Library of Philadelphia's most highly advertised program. We print tons of OBOP calendar booklets each year listing all of our programs, and we also have this information on the web, not to mention One Book ads and posters around the city. But in 2015, we also looked at audiences and markets who might be interested in certain events. For
Christina Baker Kline, author of, Orphan Train,
 participates in the launch of One Book, One Philadelphia
our "One Book, 
Many Ballets" performance, we got plenty of flyers to local dance schools, and listed the program on a dance-events website. For our Young Professionals Book Club, we hit social media, posted the event on local arts and leisure websites, got flyers in local coffee shops where young people tend to hang out, and partnered with a local organization called Young Involved Philly who reached out to people on their mailing list. It's that old business adage: "If everyone is your customer, no one is your customer." Your community read as a whole should be advertised as much as possible, but honing in on targeted audiences is so important! 
A Look At: ALLen Reads

Jane Bennett, coordinator for ALLenReads, answered a few questions for Books In Common about her community and the books that bring them together.

Would you tell us a bit about your program? For instance how long has ALLen Reads been hosting a Community Reads event, how did it get started, and how has it changed over the years?
The Friends of the Allen Public Library, an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization, was founded 29 years ago. It is dedicated to supporting the Allen Public Library by providing funds and programs that would not otherwise be possible.

ALLen Reads is a special committee under the leadership of the Friends of the Allen Public Library. We read about the one-book concept (started in 1998 in Seattle, Washington) and decided in 2007 we wanted to do this for Allen. We are now heading into our 9th year. The committee includes members from across the city: representatives from Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary clubs; city and library staff; school district personnel; and members of other non-profit groups like the Heritage Guild, the Chamber of Commerce, the Allen Arts Alliance, Foundation for Allen Schools, and Allen Retired Educators make this a true community partnership, focused on uniting the city through reading. ALLen Reads achieves this by bringing the One Book experience to Allen, Texas. Our program in Allen has grown each year, now averaging over 30,000 participants, from preschoolers through seniors.
Christina Baker Kline, author of
Orphan Train,with a group of actors at ALLen Reads.

Allen's population is a young one (average age, 34), with a lot of dual working parents. The average number of children/household is above the national average. We felt that people would be more likely to participate in a program that was family oriented than just aimed at adults. So, from the start, we have chosen books, related by theme, on three different levels: an "adult" book (that can reach as far into the schools as grade 7); a young adult/junior book; and a picture book. That way we felt the reading would be across generations as well as across the community.

We also partner strongly with the schools, having "Celebrity Readers" (local "celebrities" like the mayor, the fire chief, the police chief, business owners, etc.) go into schools and read the book(s) to students; taking the authors into the schools as well as having them speak at the library; and encouraging teachers to use ALLen Reads as a jumping off point, enhancing their curriculum.
Author Interview: Marja Mills

Books In Common recently interviewed Marja Mills, author of The Mockingbird Next Door, about her memoir. In 2004, Mills moved in next door to Nelle Harper Lee and her sister Alice and spent 18 months developing a friendship with the iconic author. She learned about Alabama, the Lees and the influences that shaped the beloved To Kill A Mockingbird.

What are some of the "teachable" moments in your book that make it work well for a Community Reads program?
Only a few generations ago, as the Lees and their Monroeville friends pointed out, segregation was accepted by a lot of people as just the way things were. What was true in the fictional Maycomb of To Kill a Mockingbird was true in the hometown that inspired it.

That points to a haunting question for community read discussions and perhaps even essay contests. What in today's world will we look back on and wonder why we didn't question it more, understand it better? Some people explore issues of race, gender or sexual orientation. Others point to the environment, the changing role of technology or our evolving understanding of mental health, addiction and how the brain works. And just as intriguing, what don't we consider an issue that we should?

Another teachable moment arises out of something Nelle once told me. The Lee sisters lived modestly in a red brick one-story house. Nelle said, "One thing about us, we can appreciate beauty without needing to possess it." Readers often tell me that they were inspired by how little time and money the Lees spent on material things.
Marja Mills at an author luncheon in Florida

A third teachable moment that comes to mind is the encounter I describe in the memoir when a fan approached Nelle as we chatted over eggs and coffee in a hole-in-the-wall diner. The woman clearly was delighted Nelle took the time to speak with her for a few moments but as the woman walked away, Nelle turned to me and said, "I hope I didn't disappoint her." It was a glimpse at the weight of expectations. Perhaps more than any other American author, Nelle's life inspires discussion about that.

Interview: Laura McBride

Laura McBride recently answered questions about her novel, We Are Called to Rise, and her experiences at author events. Her debut novel weaves the stories of four very different people living in Las Vegas struggling through war, tragedy and family turmoil.
You did your first Common Reading Program at A Tale for Three Counties in March (which was a huge success!) - how was it different than the author events you've done in the past? What do you see as some of the strengths of Common Reading Programs? 
The most striking difference was that nearly everyone in each audience had already read the book. Many of the readers had also discussed it in their book clubs, or attended events focused on particular issues that arise in the story: the immigrant experience, the CASA program, PTSD, etc. Instead of speaking to people who had heard of my novel and were thinking about reading it, I was speaking to people who not only had read it, but also had been talking and thinking about it for some time.

That created such wonderfully engaged audiences, with interesting and provocative questions. A Tale for Three Counties is a fantastically well-organized event. It runs like a clock, and the commitment to reading and to reading as a way of building community and opening up difficult conversations among people is beautiful. As an author, as a woman, as a member of a community, I was moved by the program they had built and by the values that the program embodies.

What are some of the "teachable" moments in We Are Called To Rise that make it work well for Common Reads and All Campus/Freshman Reads programs?

While I think it is the intense emotional experience made possible in the first person voices that make the book most teachable, the key issues that arise for discussion revolve around America's contemporary wars, the immigrant experience, PTSD, women, and community. Could the tragedy at the heart of the novel have been averted? Who is responsible for the people scarred by the ripple effects of someone else's choices? What is the impact of distant wars on our communities? What are our obligations to each other, and what can or should we expect of ourselves?  What does it mean for a human to "rise"?

Laura McBride, author of
We Are Called To Rise, with Common Reads organizers


The Tale for Three Counties' organizers chose an American flag to represent We Are Called To Rise, saying that the book "is about our country now." I think We Are Called To Rise asks the deepest question -- what does it mean to live one's life well?

-- and offers a story about ways people might answer it. The main characters include an immigrant child caught in a terrible crisis, a middle-aged woman struggling with a son she suspects of being dangerous, and a young Hispanic soldier navigating the way the Iraq War has changed his life: physically, emotionally and morally.


Highlights from a Few 
BIC-Supported Events

Christina Baker Kline at a library in New York
"The audience seemed pretty riveted during the whole presentation.  I think people found here to be very personable and engaging.  She was great." ----Tom, library director

Garth Stein at a national organization in Arizona

Garth's presentation was " great from the start to finish." ----Merrill, event coordinator



Regina Calcaterra at a library New York

"The event was absolutely wonderful----one of the best programs we have ever had at Islip! I can't even say what was the most interesting part of the program, she had my complete attention throughout. What an amazing person." ----Laurie, program coordinator



Stephen Puleo at a library in Connecticut

"We had a packed house in the library, which was great! Several people have followed up with an email or phone call to say how much they enjoyed the event. Thanks for helping to set it up!!" ----Deborah, librarian

Sonia Nazario at a community reads in Minnesota
 "One of the aspects of the event that I was most pleased with was how well the musicians tailored their performance to the book and how much the music added to the event." ----Sonia

Reyna Grande at a community college in Maryland
"Reyna was quite engaging. When asked questions, she gave detailed responses. It was also a nice surprise when she introduced her daughter and nieces." ----Lisa, FYE coordinator



Click Here for more BIC Events 

BIC Book Reviews: June 2015

Falling From Horses by Molly Gloss
Looking for your city's next community reads? Try Molly Gloss' Falling From Horses, an engaging story that grips readers of all ages before revealing its quiet wisdom and insight into that most quintessential American myth: cowboys and the Wild West. When a Depression-era Oregon cowboy tries his hand at stunt riding/falling for Hollywood films during the early 20th Century, he comes face to face with the harsh and unromantic realities behind the cowboy movies he (and millions of Americans) idolize.

A compassionate, clear-eyed, and often humorous story, Falling From Horses touches on many of the darker sides to the American love affair with cowboy films and myths, such as the violence, sexism, and animal abuse involved in the filming process, as well as how these myths impact how ordinary people and communities behave. It appeals to readers of all ages and genders as it explores the stories, myths, and heroes we romanticize without counting the cost it takes to create them.

"Now that I'm writing what I remember of that year, I have begun to wonder if we only invent the past. When we think back over our lives, maybe we just take a few things remembered out of so much unremembered and stitch those bits together so they spool out like a movie and make a kind of sense."

The Caning by Stephen Puleo
For those tired of partisan politics, don't worry-American history has seen far worse! In his nonfiction book The Caning, Stephen Puleo introduces readers to the Senate floor assault that horrified America and helped push the nation into the Civil War. Abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner gives a scathing speech against Southern slave owners' incitement of thuggish violence in Kansas and election rigging. Congressman Preston S. Brooks beat him up on the Senate floor with a gold-topped cane as a result of his comments. Puleo delves into how this beating's repercussions rippled across American society and politics, and how it might have been the spark that drove America into the Civil War and destroyed the Southern lifestyle Congressman Brooks hoped to save.

The Caning delves into how disagreements, cultural values, personal actions, and clashing morals can split a community apart. It's especially timely for communities and college students asking themselves how communities composed of people with diverse backgrounds, values, definitions of justice, and goals can work together. Community Reads and First-Year Experience programs can also use The Caning to place the current discussions of the Ferguson protests and on-campus racial slurs within the larger context of America's troubled history with racism.

The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas
What does it really mean to say someone is a true American? The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas explores precisely that question. In September 11th's aftermath, two men's lives collide when a white American man walks into a gas station convenience store and shoots the Bangladeshi clerk. Anand Giridharadas traces the complicated life paths that brought both men to this fateful encounter: the Bangladeshi immigrant pursuing his American dream, and a red-blooded American tough guy who wants revenge on Arabs for the Twin Towers.

With a keen eye for the humanity of everyone involved, Giridharadas guides readers into discussions about racism, immigration, Muslims in America, the American Dream, economic inequalities, justice, the death penalty, American ideals of masculinity, opportunity, perseverance, mercy, foster care/social services, and the impact of drug use on communities and families.
The True American speaks to readers of all ages, including high school and college students learning to make their own important life decisions, as well as community read participants interested in learning more about the America we now inhabit.

"Remarkable... a richly detailed, affecting account... Giridharadas seeks less to uplift than illuminate... Which of these men is the ''true American'' of the title? That there is no simple answer to that question is Giridharadas's finest accomplishment." ----Ayad Akhtar, New York Times Book Review

The Books In Common Newsletter
June 2015
Marja Mills, author of The Mockingbird Next Door, discusses her memoir and the teachable moments that make it a great community read.
In This Issue
Stay Connected

Check out these Upcoming Events Arranged by 
Books in Common  

June 11th, 2015:
Marja Mills, author of The Mockingbird Next Door, will visit a library in Mississippi.

June 13th, 2015:
Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Sudden Light, will present at a library in Washington.

June 24th, 2015:
Denise Kiernan, author of The Girls of Atomic City, will present at a corporate event in Connecticut.


June 25th, 2015 
Marja Mills will visit a library in Mississippi.

July 10th, 2015: 
Peter Stark, author of Astoria, will present at a corporate event in Oregon.

August 1st, 2015 
Garth Stein will visit a fundraiser in Washington.