About the Reads: 2014

The 2014 Reads theme is A Very Good Read and highlights a work of fiction.

Between Shades of Gray Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Gray. New York: Philomel Books, 2011.

Check here for information on the two finalists. Thanks to everyone who suggested a title for this year's Read.

Statement of Purpose

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program is a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book.


Launched in 2003 by the University of Michigan Life Sciences, Values and Society Program, the Reads project was fashioned after a civic reads program designed by the Seattle Public Library. The book chosen for the inaugural Reads was “Lincoln’s DNA,” by Phillip R. Reilly. The Ann Arbor District Library was a major partner in this effort along with other area organizations.

In subsequent years, the Reads Program has been co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District Libraries and is supported by interested civic groups, the University of Michigan School of LS&A, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Public Schools, local bookstores, Eastern Michigan University Libraries and Washtenaw Community College.

Reads Theme

Previous themes have included a review of civil rights in the United States in celebration of the anniversary of Brown v Board of Education; “Revolutions in Science,” a discussion of evolution and the scientific method and “We the People...” how we define citizenship; in 2008 the theme was China and America: Bridging Two Worlds; and for 2009, The Universe: Yours to Discover. For 2012, the Steering Committee opted for a general theme of "Language: How We Communicate."The 2014 Reads theme is A Very Good Read and highlights a work of fiction.

Book Selection

Books chosen for the Reads should meet the following criteria:

* The writing should be engaging and thought-provoking.
* The subjects discussed should be accessible to readers throughout the community, high-school age and above.
* The length, price, and availability of the book should be suited to involvement by the general public.
* The book should be by a living author.
* Its treatment of issues should encourage readers to discuss the issues further with others, at home, work, reading clubs, and community events.
* Ideally, the subject should lead to constructive dialogues across our diverse communities.

During the summer the Book Screening Committee made up of individuals selected as representative of various civic constituencies read many titles reflecting the year’s theme. In the fall, a panel of distinguished judges reviewed the two titles suggested by the Screening Committee and made a final recommendation of the Reads book for the coming year.

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2014 is scheduled to occur January through February 2014. Please watch this site for more information.

Book Discussions

Hosting your own discussion? Email the information to grimest@aadl.org to be added to the list, and check out our Resources Page for book discussion questions and tips! 


Tuesday January 30, 2018: 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm -- Ann Arbor District Library Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

 Join AADL staff and other community members for a discussion of the 2018 Washtenaw Read, Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. 


Sunday February 11, 2018: 2:00pm to 3:00pm -- Ann Arbor District Library Pittsfield Branch

Join AADL staff and other community members for a discussion of the 2018 Washtenaw Read, Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi.


Garden of Evening Mists

Garden of Evening Mists Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng.

Winner of the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, a new novel of love, war and memory.

Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice “until the monsoon comes.” Then she can design a garden for herself.

As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the Garden of Evening Mists remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?

What did you think of this book? Tell us!

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys.

An international bestseller, which was a New York Times Notable Book; a Carnegie Medal Nominee and the winner of the Golden Kite Award.

Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life--until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

This powerful tale of heartbreak and hope is sure to haunt readers long after they finish the last page.

What did you think of this book? Tell us!

Two Finalists for 2014

A panel of local individuals, including musician Mark Braun (Mr. B); radio and TV personality Lucy Ann Lance, Ann Arbor Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan, Ann Arbor City Council Member Sally Petersen and Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber, read each of these books and chose one for Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2014. Leave a comment under each or both of the titles and tell us what you think!

The two books under consideration were:

The Garden of Evening Mists

Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists. New York: Weinstein Books, 2012.

Between Shades of Gray

Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Gray. New York: Philomel Books, 2011.

Three Finalists for 2013

In 2013, the program will encourage readers of all ages to explore the theme of Understanding Race.

A selection committee of community leaders, librarians, students and educators in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area will meet in late-October to choose one of three books as the focus for this year.

The three books under consideration are:

The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: New Press, 2010, 2012.

Absolutely True Dieary

Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little Brown & Co. 2007.

Uprooting Racism

Paul Kivel, Uprooting Racism: How White people Can Work for Social Justice, 3rd revised and expanded edition.. Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2011.

Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Social Justice

Uprooting Racism Uprooting Racism: How White People Can work for Social Justice, 3rd revised and expanded edition, by Paul Kivel.

Uprooting Racism explores the manifestations of racism in politics, work, community, and family life. It moves beyond the definition and unlearning of racism to address the many areas of privilege for white people and suggests ways for individuals and groups to challenge the structures of racism. Uprooting Racism’s welcoming style helps readers look at how we learn racism, what effects it has on our lives, its costs and benefits to white people, and what we can do about it.

In addition to updating existing chapters, the new edition of Uprooting Racism explores how entrenched racism has been revealed in the new economy, the 2000 electoral debacle, rising anti-Arab prejudice, and health care policy. Special features include exercises, questions, and suggestions to engage, challenge assumptions, and motivate the reader towards social action.

What did you think of this book? Tell us!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Absolutely True Diary The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

What did you think of this book? Tell us!

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

New Jim Crow The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander.

Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it."

By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control--relegating millions to a permanent second-class status -- even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action."

What did you think of this book? Tell us!

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