Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads – it sounds like a self-evident statement of fact—and of course it is. With the students and faculty of the U-M, EMU, and Washtenaw Community College alone making up a significant percentage of the area’s population, not to mention the students and staff of the area’s smaller colleges and the public and private elementary, middle and high schools, there is little question that there is a lot of reading going on around here.
But Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads is also the name of a popular and beneficial community-building program established in 2003 by the University of Michigan Life Sciences, Values and Society Program. Since 2004, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District Libraries have been coordinating the annual event, with help from the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Public Schools, local bookstores, the Eastern Michigan University Libraries and Washtenaw Community College.
The planning for the year’s Reads begins in the spring with the formation of a screening committee of nine to twelve people, general readers and people from A2, Ypsi, U-M and EMU libraries. The screening committee generates a list of books to consider, the public can also makes suggestions via the Reads website. Over the summer, members of the committee read approximately thirty books and narrow their decision to two books. A final committee of five community members (this year yours truly was invited to serve on that panel) read both books and choose one for the next Reads. Last year the panel chose Ruta Sepetys’s, Between Shades of Gray, not to be confused with E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey.
The centerpiece of the Reads is the author event, typically held in the Towsley Auditorium at Washtenaw Community College. Ira Lax, who works in Outreach and Neighborhood Services at the Ann Arbor District Library and helps coordinate the Reads says, “The author events have been the highlights for me over the years; it’s where I see the wide readership the book has garnered and how eager people are to engage the author and each other around a single title.” But there are many other public and private events that comprise Reads. Book clubs focus meetings around the Reads book, college and high school teachers assign the books to their classes, workplaces host discussions about the book, and film societies present films related to the topic of the book. Tim Grimes, Manager of the Community Relations and Marketing Department at AADL who has spearheaded the Reads since its beginning says, “We provide a framework to help people read and discuss these books in their own homes and other settings.”
When Reads ends in late February, most of the books purchased get a second life. A few books are kept in circulation at the libraries, but the majority are donated to area schools where they continue to be read in classes.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, winner of the 2014 Medici Book Club Prize, the L.A. Times Book Prize and a finalist for the Booker Prize was chosen as this year’s selection for Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Reads 2015 over We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.
Ozeki will appear to talk about her book on Wednesday, February 11 from
7 – 8:30 pm at Ann Arbor’s Rackham Auditorium.
Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Reads, aareads.aadl.org