Friday, August 19, 2011

Cambridge READS – the FCPL’s Newest Program

From its modest beginnings in 2003, when former CPL staffer Gail Willett gathered together several librarians and avid readers to choose The Color of Water as its first selection,  Cambridge READS (CR) has evolved into an extremely popular resource for the Cambridge reading community.  The program is modeled after one begun at the Seattle Public Library and is now proudly funded entirely by the Friends. Over time we have witnessed the relocation of the popular author event to larger capacity venues such as Sanders Theater and the addition of companion programming that dovetails with the author appearance. We thought you might be interested in how each year's book is chosen. 

Here in Cambridge, the process for selecting each year’s Cambridge READS book begins early, by the December following each year's author event. The CR advisory board meets regularly, sharing titles until a list of possible books is generated. Discussions are spirited and lively; the list changes frequently.  A book must meet several criteria: be available in paperback, have a broad age appeal that includes older high schoolers, and have an author willing to visit for a reasonable honorarium. By spring, Carole Withrow, CR program director, contacts the first author on the list. Nail-biting begins!

Many meetings later the book is finally selected, and a contract is sent to the author for signing. Additional meetings then focus on types of possible companion programming, publicity, and a to-do list for Board members for the day of the event. Within a week after the author visit, a follow-up meeting takes place to discuss the event. By the end of the calendar year, the process begins anew.

This year CR has chosen WAR by Sebastian Junger as its community read. The library is already experiencing a spike in check-outs for this powerful book. We have included a list of previous selections at the end of this article.  Be sure to check out this year’s Cambridge READS info on the Events and Programming page of the library's site.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

List of Cambridge Reads selections:
2003 - The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother - James McBride
2004 - The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
2005 - The Kite Runner - Khaled Housseini
2006 - Mountains Beyond Mountains - Tracy Kidder & Dr. Paul Farmer
2007 - Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
2008 - How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents - Julia Alvarez
2009 - Colored People: A Memoir - Henry Louis Gates
2010 - Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World - Mark Kurlansky
2011 - War - Sebastian Junger

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