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One Book, One San Diego: 2017 Finalists

2017 One Book, One San Diego finalists
2017 One Book, One San Diego finalists

Local readers submitted over 500 nominations to be considered as the One Book, One San Diego 2017 title. The One Book Advisory Committee reviewed each title against the selection criteria and narrowed down the list to the following nine books, in no particular order. The 2017 title will be announced on Saturday, August 26, 2017 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 yours at a local independent bookstore.

The Coyote’s Bicycle by Kimball Taylor


It wasn't surprising when the first abandoned bicycles were found along the dirt roads and farmland just across the border from Tijuana, but before long they were arriving in droves. The bikes went from curiosity, to nuisance, to phenomenon. But until they caught the eye of journalist Kimball Taylor, only a small cadre of human smugglers, coyotes and migrants could say how or why they'd gotten there. Taylor follows the trail of the border bikes through some of society's most powerful institutions, and, with the help of an unlikely source, he reconstructs the rise of one of Tijuana's most innovative coyotes. Touching on immigration and globalization, as well as the history of the U.S.-Mexico border, The Coyote's Bicycle is at once an immersive investigation of an outrageous occurrence and a true-crime, rags-to-riches story.

One Book, One San Diego Nominations:

Kimball is from San Diego and graduated from SDSU. His book exposes border politics through the very personal lens of locals on both sides. His uncovering of the amazing stories he finds reveals a diverse and politically and morally complex home here. -Michael, Carlsbad

Because everyone loves bicycles. It’s a fascinating investigation of one of the crazier but true stories of our border region. It shines a compelling light on the unintended consequences that national security policies have on the SD-TJ region. –Ben, La Jolla

Barbarian Days by William Finnegan


Barbarian Days is William Finnegan's memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses — off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships forged in challenging waves. Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites-only gang in a tough school in Honolulu. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly — he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui — is served up with rueful humor. As Finnegan's travels take him ever farther afield, he discovers the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissects the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, and navigates the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.

Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little-understood art.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

An excellent writer, a true adventurer and member of a community very well represented in San Diego. –John, Encinitas

It portrays life, begun in Southern California, lived fully and consciously. Brilliant writing makes the book fascinating to surfers and non-surfers alike. –Julie, Normal Heights

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Ghana, 18th century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery. Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi's extraordinary novel illuminates slavery's troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed — and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

Homegoing is an epic story spanning multiple generations and continents. History, in this book, is vivid and painful, and captures "with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation. –Lalitha, Carlsbad

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. It's 1915, and Elizabeth has volunteered to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian Genocide during the First World War. There she meets Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. After leaving Aleppo and traveling into Egypt to join the British Army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, realizing that he has fallen in love with the wealthy young American. Years later, their American granddaughter, Laura, embarks on a journey back through her family's history, uncovering a story of love, loss--and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

[The Sandcastle Girls] opened my eyes to the abuse that occurred in Syria since the Armenian genocide that took place during WWI. –Kris, Oceanside

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

Mahmoud's passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she's ever known. But their happy, middle-class world--a life of education, work, and comfort--implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power. Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister's family in England. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family. Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe's capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

This novel is about Afghan refugees navigating the treacherous journey across Europe to family and safety is a timely and thought-provoking look at what they go through, particularly women and children. Will help us rethink how we treat refugees. –Ginny, Tierrasanta

Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

In 1929, in the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio, a company built a swimming pool the size of a football field; named Dreamland, it became the vital center of the community. Now, addiction has devastated Portsmouth, as it has hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across America--addiction like no other the country has ever faced. How that happened is the riveting story of Dreamland.

With a great reporter's narrative skill and the storytelling ability of a novelist, acclaimed journalist Sam Quinones weaves together two classic tales of capitalism run amok whose unintentional collision has been catastrophic. The unfettered prescribing of pain medications during the 1990s reached its peak in Purdue Pharma's campaign to market OxyContin, its new, expensive — extremely addictive — miracle painkiller. Meanwhile, a massive influx of black tar heroin — cheap, potent, and originating from one small county on Mexico's west coast, independent of any drug cartel — assaulted small town and mid-sized cities across the country, driven by a brilliant, almost unbeatable marketing and distribution system. Together these phenomena continue to lay waste to communities from Tennessee to Oregon, Indiana to New Mexico.

Introducing a memorable cast of characters — pharma pioneers, young Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics investigators, survivors, and parents — Quinones shows how these tales fit together. Dreamland is a revelatory account of the corrosive threat facing America and its heartland.

One Book, One San Diego Nominations:

This is a comprehensive account on how the U.S. has reached an alarming level of opioid abuse. A must read. –Debbie, La Jolla

NBCC winner, Amazon's best books, it's a page turner and reads like a novel. The opiate epidemic is creating a wave of destruction in America. A book club read, we found it extraordinarily timely and thought provoking especially in our region. –Beth, La Jolla

The Mothers by Britt Benett

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 Nomination:

This book is by a wonderful new author who is from Oceanside and covers the intimate lives of a fictional community who are emblematic of people who might live there. The story is an interesting portrait of contemporary black teenagers that covers love, loss, grief, friendship and family interactions. [It] interweaves Christian faith and its complexities and connects us to characters who could inhabit Camp Pendleton. This would be a great book for all of San Diego to discuss. –Geneva, San Diego

The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers

One day in 2005 while searching for food, 9-year-old Ugandan Phiona Mutesi followed her brother to a dusty veranda where she met Robert Katende. Katende, a war refugee turned missionary, had an improbable dream: to empower kids in the Katwe slum through chess — a game so foreign there is no word for it in their native language. Laying a chess-board in the dirt, Robert began to teach. At first children came for a free bowl of porridge, but many grew to love the game that — like their daily lives —requires persevering against great obstacles. Of these kids, one girl stood out as an immense talent: Phiona. By the age of 11, Phiona was her country's junior champion, and at 15, the national champion. Now a Woman Candidate Master — the first female titled player in her country's history — Phiona dreams of becoming a Grandmaster, the most elite level in chess. But to reach that goal, she must grapple with everyday life in one of the world's most unstable countries. This book is soon to be a major motion picture starring Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo, and directed by Mira Nair.

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

[This book shows] that no matter where you come from or who you are, everyone is entitled to happiness.–Yvette, Oceanside

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

“This short, powerful novel is historical fiction at its best! Captain Kidd, a 72-year-old war veteran and professional news reader, has been tasked with returning Johanna, a 10-year-old white girl kidnapped by the Kiowa when she was 6 and recently ransomed, to relatives living near San Antonio. The Captain knows the journey will not be easy but believes it is his duty to do the right thing, despite the dangers that lie ahead. What he doesn't expect is the strength of the bond that develops between him and Johanna, one so powerful that it defines the choice he makes at journey's end. Beautifully descriptive prose drives the narrative through the harsh and unforgiving landscape of the West during the late 1800s.” — Adrian Newell, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA

One Book, One San Diego Nomination:

[News of the World gives an] authentic view of the West (Texas), hardships of people after the civil war, white and Indian dynamics... great adventures. –Shirley, San Carlos