Want to spend the summer following John Joseph Yossarian trying to survive World War II, or with Holden Caulfield on his misadventures through New York City? Maybe you'd rather endure the bombing of Dresden with Kurt Vonnegut's protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. Now's your chance to decide as we officially open the voting for One Book, One Twitter. We'll keep the polls open for the next two weeks, at which point the winner will be clear to everyone. At that point we'll start reading. (Miss that link above? Then go here to vote.)
For anyone just joining us, One Book, One Twitter (#1b1t) is an effort to get everyone on Twitter to read the same book this summer. Usually such "Big Read" programs are organized around geography. Seattle started the trend for collective reading in 1998 when zillions of Seattlites all read Russell Banks’ book, Sweet Hereafter. Chicago followed suit with To Kill a Mockingbird a few years later. This Big Read is organized around Twitter, and says to hell with physical limitations. Over the last few weeks thousands of people from around the world nominated six books to include on the list of finalists.
As long time listeners will notice, we've added four more books to the mix: 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger; God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy; and Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. These titles were chosen by the One Book, One Twitter board. Here's our reasoning—the crowd picked six wonderful books, but they're all written by white men with, well, a healthy disregard for reality. That's not a dis—hell, Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five are two of my all-time favorite novels. But it's bound to appeal to a limited constituency. And besides each one of the additional four is a masterpiece in its own right, so who can complain?
As always follow @crowdsourcing and #1b1t for updates. Comments and complaints should be filed to me at the crowdsourcing blog. The rules around the voting have changed slightly. Each person is allowed one up and down vote for each title, but we are not—obviously—taking further nominations. Good luck to all our contestants, and may the best book win.
The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. 352 pps.
Mangos are pickled, and hope is too, in Roy’s quirky, brutal, Booker-award-winning novel about two young twins, a lonely mother, and an untouchable with beautiful hands.
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. 337 pps.
Macon "Milkman" Dead III has been known as a momma’s boy ever since he was a kid. Now he has to figure out who he really is while avoiding the two people who want him dead. Nobel Prize winner, 1993.
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut. 288 pps.
Extraterrestrial adventures on the planet Tralfamadore meet the WWII fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany, in this cult classic about an optometrist who becomes “unstuck in time.”
1984, by George Orwell. 326 pps.
George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian state. Prescient, controversial, brilliant, 1984 invented both “doublethink” and “Big Brother.”
Brave New World, by Aldus Huxley. 288 pps.
Come for the drugs (Mmmmm … Soma), stay for the “feelies”—movies that touch all the senses. The Modern Library ranked Huxley’s 1932 novel fifth in its list of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century.
100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez. 432 pps.
Published in 1967 and translated into over 100 languages, Marquez’s magnum opus was not only lauded as a crowning achievement in magical realism by critics, but also became the best selling Spanish language book in modern history, after Don Quixote.
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. 480 pps.
Don’t call it science fiction. Gaiman’s Hugo- and Nebula-award winning novel is “a scary, strange, and hallucinogenic road trip wrapped around a deep examination of the American spirit.”
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. 453 pps.
Published in 1961, Catch-22 was the original indictment of the absurdism of war, and the army, and bureaucracy in general.
Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. 276 pps.
Without Holden Caulfield, angst would just be another German word for anguish.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. 201 pps.
Tired of all those dystopias? Try this dystopia! Bradbury envisions “a hedonistic anti-intellectual America that has completely abandoned self-control,” in which “firemen” extinguish any flicker of an intellectual life.