First global book club launches on Twitter with Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’
The “Big Read” idea, in which one community reads a single book, has spread like kudzu since a Seattle librarian invented it in 1998. Now Jeff Howe, an editor at Wired magazine, takes it global. His “One Book, One Twitter” program encourages everyone on the planet to read Neil Gaiman’s prize-winning fantasy, American Gods.
“Usually such ‘Big Read’ programs are organized around geography,” writes Howe on his Wired blog. “Seattle started the trend for collective reading in 1998 when zillions of Seattlites all read Russell Banks’ book, Sweet Hereafter. Chicago followed suit with To Kill a Mockingbird a few years later. This Big Read is organized around Twitter, and says to hell with physical limitations.”
American Gods is a fantasy novel about an ex-con who travels across the country with “Mr. Wednesday,” who turns out to be the Norse god Odin. After several weeks of online voting, it beat out an impressive slate of other finalists, including Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut; Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison; The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy; and Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.
As the Guardian reports, Gaiman loves the idea of “a worldwide book club,” but isn’t sure American Gods is the best choice — even from among his own novels.
“Some people love it, some sort of like it, and some people hate it,” Gaiman muses on his blog. “It’s not a book I’d hand out to everyone, because the people who don’t know anything about what I’ve written and who hate it – who might have loved Stardust, or Neverwhere, or The Graveyard Book or Sandman – probably won’t go and look any further.”
Still, American Gods won the 2002 Hugo, Nebula, Locus, SFX Magazine and Bram Stoker awards for best sci-fi, fantasy or horror novel. Gaiman is by far the least literary of the finalists — readers will have a much easier time with American Gods than, say, Song of Solomon, or even Fahrenheit 451.
And he’s immensely popular. Gaiman’s Twitter account, neilhimself boasts 1,467,506 followers, which might help explain how American Gods beat out a Nobel laureate, a Man Booker winner, and two of the greatest American literary sci-fi writers of the 20th century.
Despite his reservations about American Gods, Gaiman is “thrilled to help kick off something new,” and pledges to do all he can to help.
“Which, today, will consist of making sure I let all the publishers around the world who have American Gods in print know about this, and, over the next few months, sending helpful or apologetic tweets to people who are stuck, offended, or very, very confused.”
That may be a bit premature, as only 1,500 readers had signed up as of today. If you want to participate, sign on at Twitter at @1B1T2010.
In the meantime, let’s play: Is American Gods a good choice for the first-ever global book club? Or should we be floating something more profound — say, Crime and Punishment or War and Peace or For Whom the Bell Tolls?
For that matter, I’ve always thought the Big Read a silly idea –what’s more solitary than reading? — but I guess any project that draws attention to books and literature is a good thing….