If All Rochester Read the Same Book

“If All Rochester Read the Same Book” is an annual city-wide read-along that began in 2001. I didn’t find out about it until the second year, when I joined in for the first time. Participation is simple — you read the designated book and talk about it to anyone else who is also reading it. Branch libraries all over the city distribute pamphlets containing background information, author interviews and essays, and questions to think about. Discussion group sessions and related events are scheduled at libraries and bookstores over a period of a couple of weeks, usually culminating in a lecture by the visiting author.

Here are the books that have been selected each year:

2001 — A Lesson Before Dying  by Ernest Gaines

2002 — The Sweet Hereafter  by Russell Banks *

2003 — Kindred  by Octavia Butler *

2004 — Peace Like a River  by Leif Enger **

2005 — Servants of the Map  by Andrea Barrett

2006 — Name All the Animals  by Alison Smith

2007 — The Buffalo Soldier  by Chris Bohjalian

2008 — Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits  by Laila Lalami *

2009 — Jim the Boy  by Tony Earley *

2010 — Bel Canto  by Ann Patchett

2011 — The Good Thief  by Hannah Tinti **

2012 — The Madonnas of Leningrad  by Debra Dean

2013 — Into the Beautiful North  by Luis Alberto Urrea *

2014 — The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey *

2015 — The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker *

I’ve read the book every year except 2001 and 2010. Some years, the book has failed to interest me much. Other years, I’ve discovered a new favorite book that I read with delight. Most years, I’ve snagged a copy of the pamphlet and used it to direct my attention to points I might not have considered. In five different years, I attended a library discussion of the book, in two years attending the author’s lecture.

Out of all the books I’ve read as part of this project, my two favorites were Peace Like a River and The Good Thief, both of which I fell in love with at first reading and still love with every re-read. I rarely spend money on new books, but I had to go out and buy my own copy of these two.

Some other books that I’ve liked well enough to re-read at least once and to recommend to others were The Sweet Hereafter, Kindred, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits,  Jim the Boy, Into the Beautiful North, and The Snow Child.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. maryar47
    Mar 19, 2015 @ 22:11:50

    This is an interesting idea. How are the books chosen each year?


  2. Maria
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 22:20:05

    The event is organized by a Rochester organization called Writers & Books, which sponsors literary events and workshops of various kinds throughout the year. This particular event is like an annual citywide book club with meetings at libraries and bookstores and other venues. The chosen book and the schedule of events is usually announced in February, and the reading and events take place in March. Here’s the link to this year’s event:
    If All Rochester Read the Same Book 2015


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