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One Book, One San Diego: 2018 Finalists

Local readers submitted over 500 nominations to be considered as the One Book, One San Diego 2018 title. The One Book Advisory Committee reviewed each title against the selection criteria and narrowed down the list to the following 10 books, in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. The 2018 title will be announced on Saturday, August 25, 2018, at the San Diego Festival of Books at Liberty Station.

In the meantime, be sure to add these to your summer reading list, check them out from your neighborhood library or buy your own copy at a local independent bookstore.

“The Mothers” by Brit Bennett

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett's mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret. It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son. Luke Sheppard is 21, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it's not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance — and the subsequent cover-up — will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt. In entrancing, lyrical prose, “The Mothers” asks whether a 'what if' can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

One Book, One San Diego Nominations:

This story happens in every community, every neighborhood, every generation, and family. It is familiar and personal and will start conversations that need to happen. -Cynthia, Fallbrook

This book is about making life-changing decisions without experience or wisdom. Nadia is smart and college-bound, but the death of her mother has her grief-stricken. Her risky behavior could change her future. This could be any girl anywhere. –Brooklynn, San Diego

"The Fortunes" by Peter Ho Davies

Sly, funny, intelligent, and artfully structured, “The Fortunes” recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience. Inhabiting four lives—a railroad baron’s valet who unwittingly ignites an explosion in Chinese labor, Hollywood's first Chinese movie star, a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes Asian Americans, and a biracial writer visiting China for an adoption—this novel captures and capsizes over a century of our history, showing that even as family bonds are denied and broken, a community can survive—as much through love as blood. Building fact into fiction, spinning fiction around fact, Davies uses each of these stories—three inspired by real historical characters—to examine the process of becoming not only Chinese American, but American.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

“The Fortunes” is the fictionalized history of Chinese immigration via a boy sold to a laundry, Anna May Wong, racial killing of Vincent, and a half-Chinese man adopting a Chinese baby. [This book is] important for raising awareness of a significant U.S. minority. –Beth, La Mesa

"Into the Magic Shop" by James R. Doty

Growing up in the high desert of California, Jim Doty was poor, with an alcoholic father and a mother chronically depressed and paralyzed by a stroke. Today he is the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, of which the Dalai Lama is a founding benefactor. But back then his life was at a dead end until at 12 he wandered into a magic shop looking for a plastic thumb. Instead he met Ruth, a woman who taught him a series of exercises to ease his own suffering and manifest his greatest desires. Her final mandate was that he keep his heart open and teach these techniques to others. She gave him his first glimpse of the unique relationship between the brain and the heart. Doty would go on to put Ruth's practices to work with extraordinary results—power and wealth that he could only imagine as a 12-year-old, riding his orange Sting-Ray bike. But he neglects Ruth's most important lesson, to keep his heart open, with disastrous results—until he has the opportunity to make a spectacular charitable contribution that will virtually ruin him. Part memoir, part science, part inspiration, and part practical instruction, “Into the Magic Shop” shows us how we can fundamentally change our lives by first changing our brains and our hearts.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

We need inspiration and this book, while an easy read, rewards the reader with the sense that all is possible. It’s delightful and has a message. It's the true story of a teenager growing up in Lancaster, California, and his journey into manhood. –Jean, Encinitas

"Manhattan Beach" by Jennifer Egan

Anna Kerrigan, nearly 12, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father's life, the reasons he might have vanished.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

[“Manhattan Beach” is a] great historical novel about the people on the homefront and how they lived during World War II, particularly the women in traditionally male jobs. –Brenda, San Diego

"Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent who infiltrated the region, and together with the Osage, began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

One Book, One San Diego Nominations:

I recommend that people in our region read this book as it tells a culturally important story that is still relevant today. With the cultural divisions we still see, it is essential to recall past injustices as we strive towards equality. –Jessica, San Marcos

This nonfiction book describes a little known part of American history. –Linda, La Mesa

"Waking Lions" by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

After one night's deadly mistake, a man will go to any lengths to save his family and his reputation. Neurosurgeon Eitan Green has the perfect life—married to a beautiful police officer and father of two young boys. Then, speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he hits someone. Seeing that the man, an African migrant, is beyond help, he flees the scene. When the victim's widow knocks at Eitan's door the next day, holding his wallet and divulging that she knows what happened, Eitan discovers that her price for silence is not money. It is something else entirely, something that will shatter Eitan's safe existence and take him into a world of secrets and lies he could never have anticipated.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

[“Waking Lions”] deals with ethical issues, immigrants, cause and effect –Dale, San Diego

"Heat and Light" by Jennifer Haigh

Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled the country. Then the mines closed, and the town wore away like a bar of soap. Now Bakerton has been granted a surprise third act: it sits squarely atop the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit of natural gas. To drill or not to drill? Prison guard Rich Devlin leases his mineral rights to finance his dream of farming. He doesn't count on the truck traffic and nonstop noise, his brother's skepticism or the paranoia of his wife, Shelby, who insists the water smells strange and is poisoning their frail daughter. Meanwhile his neighbors, organic dairy farmers Mack and Rena, hold out against the drilling—until a passionate environmental activist disrupts their lives. Told through a cast of characters whose lives are increasingly bound by the opposing interests that underpin the national debate, “Heat and Light” depicts a community blessed and cursed by its natural resources. Soaring and ambitious, it zooms from drill rig to shareholders' meeting to the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor to the ruined landscape of the "strippins," haunting reminders of Pennsylvania's past energy booms.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

What happens to people and a town in an economic downturn? [This book presents a] civil presentation on all sides of the energy extraction process, particularly "fracking." –Beverly, Escondido

"March: Book One" by John Lewis

Georgia Congressman John Lewis is an American icon and key figure of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president. Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents “March,” a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell. “March” is a vivid first-hand account of Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. “Book One” spans Lewis' youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. Many years ago, Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book "Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story." Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

One Book, One San Diego Nominations:

“March” is the story of Rep. John Lewis’ memories of the civil rights movement, specifically his childhood in rural Alabama and his first meeting with the Rev. King. It has won many awards and as a graphic novel, [this book] is accessible to a wide range of readers. -Janet, San Diego

This book changes lives by discussing the civil rights movement. It can change the way people think about and treat those that are different and discriminated against. It induces empathy, something sorely lacking today. I cannot recommend [it] more highly. –Kyle, San Diego

"Behold the Dreamers" by Imbolo Mbue

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their 6-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark's wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwards' summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers' facades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende's job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

This book is quite appropriate for this time. It's a story about immigration and the struggles that some go through to achieve the American dream. It also shows the "down side" to the pursuit of the dream and decisions that must be made in that quest. –Leslyn, Spring Valley

"Sing, Unburied, Sing" by Jesmyn Ward

Jojo is 13 years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn't lack in fathers to study, chief among them his black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent white father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent white grandfather, Big Joseph, who won't acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister's lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children's father is white. She wants to be a better mother but can't put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances. When the children's father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another 13 year old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

This is a heartbreaking story of a 13-year-old boy trying care for his younger sister while his mother won’t, and also trying to grapple with scars and ghosts from past and present. This story is beautifully written and unapologetically raw. –Erin, San Diego

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