Despite the fact that there is no known shortage of awesome writers, authors and poets in this town, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs' One Book, One Denver program has a long history of coming up with arbitrary treacle that has nothing to do with Denver for the three selections it nominates every year, that the good citizens of Denver might vote for their favorite and have a book to read together at the same time -- and this year is more of the same in pretty much every way. DOCA still doesn't give a shit about local authors, evidently, and the assortment of boring it brings to the table this time around is more of the same best-seller-listing crap it's favored in the past. Voting starts today, but why bother?
Nominated by a panel of people who apparently only read shit Oprah might recommend, this year's picks include The Art of Racing in the Rain, the story of a dog who believes he may be reincarnated as a human if he learns the life lessons taught to him by television and his race car-driving owner. It's by Garth Stein, an author from Seattle, and if you've heard of this one, it's probably because it was sold at Starbucks for a while back in 2008, and also topped the New York Times bestseller list.
In the other corner is Montana author Jamie Ford's Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which keeps up OBOD's vaguely civil rights-y kind of theme with the story of a Chinese kid and a Japanese kid who meet and fall in love in Seattle (again with the Seattle!) during World War II and must confront the increasingly anti-Japanese racism of the times. Ford's book also topped the NYT list, and was a featured selection for book clubs as diverse as those of Barnes & Noble, Target and Costco, which is how you know it's going to be really compelling.
The only very interesting selection looks to be Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the first non-fiction title ever from OBOD, as far as I can recall. The result of an graduate research project that began in 1999, the book details the story of Henrietta Lacks, who in 1951 unknowingly donated a group of cancerous cells to science when doctors got them to do something they'd never seen cells do before in culture: spontaneously reproduce. Following those cells as they go on a fantastic journey that involves the creation of tons of pharmaceuticals and even takes them to space, the book contrasts that with Lacks, whose own journey was much less glamorous: A poor black woman, she died destitute, and her relatives have continued on in poverty and without health insurance as the medical industry continues to use Lacks' still-living cells to turn massive profits.
Does it have anything to do with Denver? No, it does not. Still, all three appear to be better options at least than last year's winner, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, a turd so hackneyed with down-south syrup and stale look-at-the-poor-folk downtrodden struggle that even the book jacket was awful to read.
Now, if only we could get T.A. Barron nominated, that shit would be sick.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.