With so many potential sources of division around the world, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to unite his diverse city through literature.
One Book, One New York (#OneBookNY) aims to get each one of New York City's 8.5 million residents to read a book; more specifically, to read the same book, at the same time. Similar schemes have been successful in other American cities, such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle... and unsuccessful in New York in 2002, when organisers couldn't settle on a title.
This time the book will be selected via popular vote, through online voting and digital voting booths set up throughout the NYC subway system. The shortlist, sifted out from the suggestions of an advisory panel of professional bookworms, consists of five award-winning novels:
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (championed by William H. Macy)
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (championed by Bebe Neuwirth)
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (championed by Danielle Brooks)
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (championed by Larry Wilmore)
- The Sellout by Paul Beatty (championed by Giancarlo Esposito)
The publishers of the five shortlisted novels will each donate 4000 books to over 200 libraries around the city to prepare for the big read, which will begin in March once the winner is announced.
The initiative is more than a symbolic show of unity: public discussions and other events in each of the city's five boroughs will encourage people to engage not only with ideas, but with each other. The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, which is running the programme, also hopes One Book, One New York will support independent booksellers throughout the city.
This year's One Book, One New York will be the first iteration of an annual event. Which books would you pick for New Yorkers to read this year? Let us know in the comments below.