New Canaan Library has made its “One Book New Canaan” selection for this year—a work of nonfiction that “brings splendidly to life,” one prominent reviewer said, the people and events of the summer of 1927.
In creating a series of community events designed to help New Canaanites connect with Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: America 1927,” and each other, the library will convert its Adrian Lamb Room for one night into a speakeasy—accessible by password and complete with black wallpaper, sawdust and bunting.
Said Programming Librarian Erinn Paige: “1920s dress is optional, but I think a lot of fringe is in our future.”
“One Book New Canaan” will launch and run through the month of March, and dozens of copies of Bryson’s book are available now (see here).
The idea behind “One Book” is to create a platform, through programming, where people of all ages and interests can engage with a single story, Paige said.
“We at the library are a community hub that provide that space for that conversation that then goes back home to the dinner table, back out into the community, so different people who might not always run into each other have that kernel of something they shared, something interesting that they learned at the library, or learned in that book.”
Bryson’s book was chosen in part, Paige said, because it looks at “so many different aspects of American history at a time when we were poised to be the world power that, in many ways, used to be Europe.”
“You used to look to Europe for technological innovation at that time, for the benchmark for good financial practice or financial practice that would really impact the world. All these things were shifting toward America at that time, so you get in a single summer Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic, some of the seeds of the stock market crash, ‘The Jazz Singer,’ ” and more. A programming schedule has yet to be finalized, Paige said, though other pieces will include Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome flight simulators, Lindy Hop dance lesson, Harvard professor discussing eugenics, original live performance and a community-wide “virtual conversation” with Bryson himself (likely through Skype).
The library is coming into its second “One Book New Canaan” after a hugely successful inaugural year, where 600 residents packed the New Canaan High School auditorium to hear author Nathaniel Philbrick discuss his “In the Heart of the Sea.”
Promoting the book last year involved buying some books to seed readership locally, library Director Lisa Oldham said, and prominent local residents got behind the effort and promoted “One Book New Canaan.”
“We were really learning last year, and everything we tried worked, and this year will be more and better,” Oldham said.