Greenwich Library chooses The Boys In The Boat for town to read ‘together’

From left, Haley Elmlinger, president of the Greenwich Library Board of Trustees, and First Selectman Peter Tesei formally unveil the title for this year's Greenwich Reads Together.

From left, Haley Elmlinger, president of the Greenwich Library Board of Trustees, and First Selectman Peter Tesei formally unveil the title for this year’s Greenwich Reads Together.

Greenwich will be spending a lot of time with The Boys In The Boat as the true story of the U.S. Olympic rowing team at the 1936 Berlin games has been chosen as the book for Greenwich Reads Together 2014.

The book was chosen out of more than 45 candidates and it tells the tale of how the U.S. team, made up of rowers from the University of Washington stunned the world at the infamous games which were designed to be a show of German superiority under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Their accomplishments transformed the way rowing is viewed and the book, written by Daniel James Brown, puts the story of Joe Rantz and his quest to rebuild shattered self esteem and find a place for himself in the world front and center.

The aim of the Greenwich Reads Together, which is in its fourth year, is to get the launch a community wide dialogue around a specific book, with several events built around it, including a trip to Greenwich by the author on Oct. 28. The program won’t take place until Oct. 14 through Oct. 30 but the official announcement took place Thursday morning as the book title was revealed and free copies were distributed.

“Greenwich Reads Together is a community-wide reading experience designed to engage all of our community in exploring a single book,” Greenwich Library Director Barbara Ormerod-Glynn said at the announcement. “The program is about bringing our community of readers and viewers and listeners together in the same way our strategic plan defines connecting our community.”

First Selectman Peter Tesei was on hand to formally unveil the title chosen for the program, literally tearing the paper off a print of the book jacket, along with Haley Elmlinger, president of the Greenwich Library Board of Trustees. The process of actually choosing The Boys In The Boat came after a selection committee made up of representatives from Greenwich Library, Greenwich Historical Society, the Greenwich Alliance for Education, the Greenwich Pen Women, the Greenwich Public Schools as well as the town’s private schools and the Friends of Greenwich Library considered options. There were more than 45 suggestions from the community and over the course of five weeks of meetings the choice was made.

“In order to be selected the book had to be of high literary quality, reflective of universal issues and capable of generating thought provoking discussions,” Kate Petrov, Greenwich’s Library’s public relations officer, said. “It should also lend itself to engaging public programs and appeal to a diverse population.”

The book was nominated by town resident Arthur Wichman, who appeared at the event to read a passage from it, teasing people with its story before the title was even officially unveiled. Afterwards, Mr. Wichman, who first became aware of The Boys In The Boat through his book club, said it was the true story of the people involved that made him feel this was a book the community would enjoy.

“It’s a story about someone surmounting unimaginable difficulties,” Mr. Wichman told the Post. “He came from abject poverty and a broken family and he wouldn’t quit. Another thing that’s great is that this book is all about a team. The message of this book is that you did not have to be the best rower. You had to make the team better. It’s a beautifully written book and it’s so compelling. You can’t put it down.”

It now joins a list of books that have been part of past years of the program. The inaugural Greenwich Reads Together selection was Markus Zusak’s novel, The Book Thief. The 2012 selection was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and in 2013 it was When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. But The Boys In The Boat is not the only book that will be read this year as part of the program. To draw in younger readers, in consultation with Greenwich’s public and private schools, three other titles will be offered. Outcasts United by Warren St. John, which will be available in both adult and young adult versions, tells the tale of a soccer team made up of refugees and will be for high school students. There will be two titles for younger kids, A Strong Right Arm by Michelle Green is a biography of a woman who defied the odds and pitched professionally for the Negro Leagues and Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull is about the legendary athlete triumphed over polio to win gold medals at the Olympics.

Joan Slattery, the middle and upper school librarian at Greenwich Academy, unveiled those titles and said they “capture the same spirit of teamwork, perseverance and overcoming the odds.” She said she hoped they would broaden the scope of the program to include more readers, an idea that the library said is at the heart of Greenwich Reads Together.

“We are so proud of this program and so supportive and the need it serves in our community,” Ms. Elmlinger said. “I’m continually proud of how collaborative this program is across so many organizations and our schools. It really is a wonderful demonstration of what we as a community can do together.”

Copies of the book will be available to be checked out of Greenwich Library and they can also be purchased locally at Diane’s Books.


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