Elie Wiesel’s "Night," a classic Holocaust memoir that made "Oprah’s Book Club" this year and The New York Times best-seller list is one of three books vying to become "One Book BCCLS."
BCCLS the Bergen County Cooperative Library System is hosting an online book group, with discussions scheduled for November. It’s taking votes through Sept. 1 among Wiesel’s "Night," Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice," and Alexandra Fuller’s "Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight."
"We were very interested in doing something to bring together the BCCLS community, a consortium of 73 public libraries," said Arlene Sahraie, BCCLS’ library services director. "Every Bergen town with a public library is a BCCLS member, as well as 11 outside of Bergen," in Hudson, Passaic, and Essex counties.
"Because of this very diverse geographic distribution," she added, "it’s very hard to get people to come together, so we thought that this is a perfect opportunity to do the first [BCCLS] online book discussion."
Actually, there will be two discussions, both on Nov. 8, one at 4 p.m., led by Carlie Webber, BCCLS’ young adult services coordinator, and the other at 7 p.m., led by Daragh O’Connor, director of the River Edge Public Library and a longtime book group leader.
"It was our hope," said Sahraie, "that the 4 o’clock discussion might grab some students after school." In fact, she added, "we’d love to get entire classes engaged in the discussion."
But more is hoped of "One Book BCCLS" "than just a big discussion," Sahraie said. She noted that about a million and a half people live in the BCCLS area, with about 600,000 library card-holders, and "we view this as a way to really create an online community, to encourage people to read, and to cultivate a culture for reading." This is "a way to build community through a shared experience," she said.
Another reason to take the book-talk online, she went on, is that the system introduced downloadable audiobooks in January including fiction, non-fiction, and young adult books and this is a way to better acquaint readers with the process.
Close to ‘,000 books can be downloaded, including all three of the contenders, although, said Sahraei, "we are thrilled whether people read [what’s chosen] as a book, a book on tape, or as a downloadable; we’re really happy to celebrate great pieces of literature."
Asked how the "One Book BCCLS" candidates were chosen, Sahraei said that the seven members of the BCCLS public relations committee each suggested five titles and then "we narrowed it down to these three . We viewed all three titles as possibly engaging for high school and college students .
"Once school starts again," she added, "I hope that many of our librarians will broach the subject with local educators to get their students involved. I’d love to see teachers give extra credit to students who participate in the discussion.
"We felt the memoir by Alexandra Fuller would have wide-ranging appeal," she continued. That ‘001 book, "Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight," "about a young white woman who returns to Africa with her family to live, is full of drought and land mines in the roads and hunger and armed guerrillas all these things we hear about in the news today. It’s a timely and well-written memoir."
She noted that Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice," "was written in 1797, published in 1813, and it is still a best-seller. It [focuses on] class and the role of women and men in society. The recent film is enormously popular," she added. Also, the book is "on lots and lots of school reading lists."
Wiesel’s "Night," first published in Yiddish in 1958, translated into French and subsequently, in 1960, into English, was reissued this year in a new translation from the French. It’s "on so many reading lists and is such an important work . I thought that Wiesel’s family’s interment at Auschwitz and Buchenwald would be very profound for a community to discuss. Man’s inhumanity to man is as timely today as it was [during the Holocaust]."
Asked how the voting was going, she said that BCCLS had received about 1,400 online votes as of Monday. Asked which book was ahead of the pack, she said, with a laugh, "Oh, I can’t say."