I spent part of the day at the offices of the Maryland Humanities Council, as part of the group that selects the book for the One Maryland One Book reading program. (Is there anyything better than a good discussion about books?) The group of about a dozen bibliophiles reviewed nine books that had been winnowed down from a longer list, all built around this year's theme: courage and unity in a time of war.
As my assignment, I read "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. I really enjoyed the Holocaust-era novel. It has a great voice (narrated by Death himself), lyrical imagery, and compelling characters. But because of its length and complexity, I thought it would be a hard sell for high schoolers in the program. So I reluctantly recommended against it.
The group named three finalilsts: "The Cellist of Sarajevo" by Steven Galloway, "The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood" by Helene Cooper, and "The Zookeeper’s Wife" by Diane Ackerman. A fourth, Julia Alvarez’s "In the Time of the Butterflies," will also be considered.
The final selection will come next month. If you have a favorite, let me know, and I'll pass on the recommendations.