Saratoga County

Saratoga Reads seek votes on what to read next

For Saratoga County residents who love an excuse to curl up with a good book, the next few months co

For Saratoga County residents who love an excuse to curl up with a good book, the next few months could be heaven.

Two community reading programs have unveiled books for readers to vote on for a final selection that everyone will read.

Saratoga Reads is taking ballots until Oct. 31, and Two Towns-One Book in Clifton Park and Halfmoon is accepting votes through Nov. 24. Each has identified five finalist books.

People don’t have to read all of the books — or any of them, for that matter — to cast a ballot, said Robert Kimmerle, spokesman for Saratoga Reads.

“Most people have not read any of the five,” he said. Rather, they peruse the detailed descriptions that Saratoga Reads compiles and then make a selection based on the subject matter.

The one that gets the most votes will become the official Saratoga Reads book and will be announced in mid-November. Special events around the book’s theme will take place from then until April, including a popular children’s event where youngsters read a companion book with a similar subject matter and then discuss it.

For its last selection — “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot — Saratoga Reads held 15 events. All are free.

Now in its ninth year, Saratoga Reads is based in Saratoga Springs but is trying to expand its reach to the entire county.

The five candidates are:

u “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” by Michael Chabon, a novel about two Jewish cousins in New York City in the World War II era who write and illustrate comic books as that industry comes of age.

u “Doc” by Mary Doria Russell, a novel imagining the early friendship between Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp in the late 1800s before they became well-known figures in American history.

u “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach, a novel about a college baseball star who bungles a throw and the drama that results.

u “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup (as told to David Wilson), Northup’s memoir of being kidnapped in Saratoga Springs and sold into slavery.

u “Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef” by Gabrielle Hamilton, a memoir of the author’s experience in the kitchens of her childhood, working as a cook and seeking family and community.

Votes may be cast online at or at the Saratoga Springs Public Library or Barnes & Noble in Wilton.

Meanwhile, in the southern end of the county, organizers of a budding reading program are preparing for the second year of Two Towns-One Book.

The Friends of the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library had a successful first year with “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, with events that kicked off in January.

“Not knowing anything when we did it the first year, actually, it did quite well,” said Linda Conklin, chairwoman of the Two Towns-One Book committee.

Though it’s nearly impossible to tell how many participants there were in the program, Conklin estimated that 300 to 400 people took part.

On Tuesday evening, the Friends unveiled the five candidates for next year’s book.

They’re very different books, Conklin said — three are nonfiction and two are fiction:

u “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, a history of an Army Air Forces bomber pilot who crashed into the Pacific Ocean and his struggle to survive.

u “The Submission” by Amy Waldman, a novel about the controversy that ensues when a Muslim artist is chosen to create a memorial for a terrorist attack in New York City.

u “The Kitchen House” by Kathleen Grissom, a novel about a white servant who works with the black slaves in a tobacco plantation.

u “Remarkable Creatures” by Tracy Chevalier, a history of a British woman in the 1800s who discovered ancient reptile fossils.

u “Packing for Mars” by Mary Roach, about what happens to the human body in space.

Votes will be accepted online at or at several locations: the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library; Clifton Park Town Hall; Shenendehowa Adult Community Center; Halfmoon Town Hall and Halfmoon Senior Center; Southern Saratoga YMCA; and Eastline Books.

The chosen book will be announced in early December.

Readers sometimes enjoy taking the entire list home for more than just casting a ballot, Kimmerle said — some use it as their new reading list.

“It kind of gives people a direction,” he said.

Both reading programs are organized the same way as far as the book selection goes — they receive book nominations from the public and then use a volunteer committee to read the books and narrow the options to five. Then people vote for one book online or at the libraries or other locations.

Both also choose children’s books with a similar topic to complement the adult reading.

“The idea is that everybody should be reading,” Kimmerle said.

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