Hartford's One Book is: Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"
At one point Wednesday, I suggested a cage fight to break the divide and help the selection committee decide on this year's One Book for Greater Hartford.
Last year, deciding on the shared reading assignment was easy. Although there were lots of good books in contention for the top spot, we all fell in love with Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao."
This time, the choice was a bit harder. Once again, we had four great books to choose from, all with different themes and story lines that would appeal to the Greater Hartford community.
I was leaning toward Warren St. John's "Outcasts United," a story about a ragtag soccer team of young refugees who resettled in a small town just outside Atlanta.
But by the end of a nearly two-hour discussion, sans cage fight I might add, Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" beat out everyone else.
As much as I don't like to lose, it's a good choice.
The book is a murder mystery of sorts told through the eyes of Christopher John Francis Boone, an autistic 15-year-old whose parents are struggling to cope with their child's condition.
Besides being an entertaining read, it's also a sometimes agonizing portrayal of what children with autism might experience on a daily basis.
Christopher loves animals, but can't stand to be touched. He's able to calculate complicated math problems in his head, but human emotions escape him.
"I find people confusing," Christopher says in the book. "This is for two main reasons. The first is that people do a lot of talking without using any words. The second main reason is that people often talk using metaphors. ... I think it should be called a lie."
Much of the appeal of the book was the potential of improving the community's understanding of the condition that doctors have called "an urgent public health concern," that touches more people than many might realize.
About 1 in every 1,000 people in the United States has autism, studies show. And the number of cases among children seems to be increasing.
A recent U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention report said that 1 in every 110 children has been diagnosed with autism, including 1 in 70 boys. That's a stunning 57 percent increase from 2002 to 2006.
And even more reason why Haddon's book was such an important One Book choice.
The culminating author's visit in October might be difficult to pull off, considering that Haddon lives in England and is busy writing.
But, as library organizers pointed out, there are plenty of organizations and experts and families dealing with autism to make for a summer full of insightful conversations and events.
So, grab your copy of the winning book. It's time to get reading.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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