I have no idea what happened, but finally, the One Book, One Chicago pick is cool. It only took 10 years. As announced here this week, Chicago will be reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
As I have mentioned here many times before, Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. It is a great choice for the One Book, One Chicago program for many reasons. First, the book is urban. It is set in London and is all about the hidden world under the busy city streets. Chicagoans will be able to relate to the urban issues, but also, the idea of a complex system of underground tunnels, an understanding of which is key to the suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy this novel, is not foreign to us.
Second, Gaiman now lives in Wisconsin. He comes to Chicago frequently, he is very involved with the ALA and comics industry, and will probably be very willing to participate in the program. Author participation is key to the success of the program.
Third, this selection will draw younger readers into the program willingly. Yes, younger readers participated with To Kill A Mocking Bird, but that was more because they had to. Neverwhere, is appropriate for a teen audience, has a young protagonist, and is by an author deemed cool enough for young readers to pick up on their own. More importantly than attracting teens, Gaiman will attract 20-35 year olds, often the hardest demographic to get into the library (especially if they don't have children who they are bringing in regularly).
Fourth, Neverwhere is a challenging book. It has grit and realism mixed with fantasy. It asks tough questions about the choices we make with our lives. It is a story about a journey, about right vs wrong, and about finding yourself. Readers will have to take a hard look at their own lives and choices. I love it.
Fifth, Gaiman has an awesome website where he discusses his own work and larger issues in the world of reading and comics. I hope the program works with him to create web content. Gaiman has always been ahead of the curve in terms of a web presence. I hope the committee uses his expertise to enhance people's virtual experience with the program.
Finally, Neil Gaiman is a great author. He is one of the only writers out there today who has managed to write solid and entertaining stories for all ages, from picture books to adults. He has created one of the most imaginative and challenging graphic novel series ever with The Sandman. American Gods is one of the best "great American novels" I have ever read. He may be originally from England, but he has become one of our American treasures.
Click here for the One Book, One Chicago website.
Also, in a few months, look for Berwyn to announce our One Book, One City pick. I am already working on the publicity for it.
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