There aren’t a lot of things in this world that are absolutely one thing or another. There are a lot of gray areas and a lot of subjectivity. Reading habits and taste in books is one of those things. Books can be extremely personal and what one person likes could be equally disliked by another person.
So, I’m intrigued by the idea of One Book, One Twitter (1B1T). About a month ago, Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine proposed the idea of an massive, international, Twitter-based reading frenzy in which hundreds (if not thousands) of Twitter users all read the same book at the same time. Howe doesn’t think of it as a book club per se, but rather an attempt to create a community of book lovers and reading aficionado’s “across geographical, cultural, ethnic, economic and social boundaries.”
Twitter users were able to nominate books for consideration and about two weeks ago, Wired opened up voting on the top titles up until last night. Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods, emerged the triumphant winner after a lot of back and forth. Other finalists included well-known contemporary classics such as Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
I really love the idea of a large group of people from a diverse range of backgrounds coming together because of one book (especially a book by one of my personal favorites, Gaiman), but there is a part of me that feels slightly ambivalent.
For starters, the nominated titles and even the final selected book aren’t necessarily the best book for everyone to read. Nearly all of the titles were adult books, which means the books under consideration weren’t appropriate for all readers (assuming children and/or teens wanted to participate). All of the nominated titles were American-published, English-written books. I understand the necessity of that for practical purposes, but it does leave a large swath of literature untouched.
Furthermore, I was disappointed to see only one female author on the list (Toni Morrison), while most of the others authors (including the ultimately victorious one) were white males. I suppose it is somewhat predictable to have a list dominated by a specific segment of society, but it’s certainly not representative of literature as a whole. And technically, only the people interested in participating in One Book, One Twitter had their say by voting. A sampling of people that’s based on self-selection isn’t exactly a representative sample of readers across the globe.
But my strongest twinge of hesitation comes from the fact that I truly believe reading is one of the most subjective things we do as humans.
There are so many different types of books published precisely because there are so many different types of readers. That’s how it should be. I certainly understand that there are some books that do appeal to a large number of people, but I just don’t believe that there is ultimately one book for everyone. The One Book, One Twitter idea is great in theory, but it implies that there is one book that everyone “should” read. And that assumption is based on the opinions of a relatively small group of people. I guess when it comes down to it, I just don’t think that one book can really appeal to all people. One Book, One Twitter is a neat idea, but I suppose I wish there had been some more thought put into the concept. When you engage in a subjective activity such as reading, I think you need to really think about all the possibilities.
What do you think, bookworms? Is One Book, One Twitter just another glorified book club masquerading under a different name? Do you believe there is one book for everyone? What would you have chosen for 1B1T if you were in charge?
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