Though the process to choose this year's One Read book began long before the pandemic, this year's choice is almost eerily appropriate.
The One Read 2020 pick, as decided by local readers and One Read Task Force members, is "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles. In September, the Daniel Boone Regional Library, Callaway County Public Library, William Woods University, and other local groups and businesses will host a series of events themed around the book.
"I think when this book was first nominated some of us thought it's a wonderful read, it's immersive kind of grand adventure — which is funny to say even though it takes place mostly in confines of hotel," said Lauren Williams, DBRL's adult and community services manager. "And it's about Russia. Now both those things relevant: living in a confined space and making a world of that space, and the ways in which Russia comes into our political conversation now."
In 1922, a Bolshevik tribunal sentences Count Alexander Rostov to house arrest in the luxurious Hotel Metropol. For the next 30 years, the Count experiences his country's upheaval and transformation from the confines of his attic room, the building's grand public spaces and the behind-the-scenes domains of hotel employees-turned-friends.
This novel is a lightly drawn, episodic portrait of Russia's 20th century political history, as well as a charming tale of one man's self-discovery and dedication to family, memory and home.
"The hotel's spaces become his whole world," Williams said. "He interacts with a lively cast of characters. All the changes are happening, you see how they affect the guests coming into hotel. The novel focuses on the country's evolution and (the count's) deepening relationship to the guests. He has to find a way to remake who he is within the world."
"O, the Oprah Magazine" described "A Gentleman in Moscow" as "the ultimate quarantine read" and "a manual for getting through the days to come."
During a Zoom meeting last week, task force members bounced around event ideas centered around the book's themes, including confinement, resilience, Russia's political history and more. Williams acknowledged that depending on the risk and social distancing guidelines in place in September, some events might need to be held virtually or limited to small audiences.
"We're not sure how this is going to look this year," she said.
On the plus side, hosting events virtually means the task force can look further afield for speakers, as Stacie Pottinger of Orr Street Studios pointed out.
"This is when I typically say we need all plans in place for program guide by mid-July," Williams said. "But who knows what's going to happen between now and mid-July. We may have fewer program, it may just be a low-key year because of circumstances."
DBRL has copies of the book available in hard cover, paperback, large print, audiobook, downloadable audiobook and ebook formats. Though the Holts Summit and Fulton libraries remain closed, patrons may now place holds on physical items for pickup.