Since it was created nine years ago, the city's One Book, One Denver program has had a few problems living up to the second part of its name. It has chosen trendy best sellers like The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Help; classics with no connection to our region, like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Thin Man; and other books that were less than inspirational. Meanwhile, great authors with local connections, like Kent Haruf, John Williams and John Fante, have been ignored.
Making Denver's disdain for its own people even more embarrassing is last week's announcement by Galveston, Texas, of the book that it chose for its own program: The Big Year.
Written in 2004 by former Denver Post reporter Mark Obmascik, the nonfiction book tells the story of three men — one of whom, Stu Preissler, lives in Colorado — on a quest to see more bird species over the course of a year than anyone else; Preissler's character is based on a real life man from Snowmass Village named Al Levantin, who was described in the Aspen Daily News as "an affable and energetic retiree" and as "a fun-loving and newly retired businessman with a ski bum's heart and an unflappable birder's eye." It's a great read and was made into a movie last fall starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. Obmascik, who worked for the Post from 1985 to 2002, was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Columbine High School shootings. In 2009, he published Halfway to Heaven: My White-Knuckled — and Knuckleheaded — Quest for the Rocky Mountain High, which tells of his own adventures climbing all 54 of Colorado's fourteeners. The book won the 2009 National Outdoor Book Award for Outdoor Literature.
Sound like a good choice for One Book, One Denver?
At least the city is getting closer to relevance this year. The announcement of this year's book is slated for early September, and the finalists all have some local ties: Enrique's Journey, which grew out of a Los Angeles Times series by Colorado State University alumna Sonia Nazario, who followed a Honduran boy traveling to the United States; The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan's book on the Dust Bowl, which decimated Colorado; and Denver, a novel by an actual Denver author, John Dunning.
But the Queen City of the Plains is always a bridesmaid, never a bride. We hear that Enrique's Journey definitely has the inside track this year. All aboard!