Locals gathered Dec. 3 at the Downtown Bend Library for the Deschutes Public Library Foundation's 20th "A Novel Idea" unveiling ceremony, where the 2023 selection was revealed.
A Novel Idea is Oregon's largest annual community reading event, held during the spring in libraries and venues around Deschutes County. For the last 20 years, Novel Idea has introduced communities of people to the same book in the hopes of sparking intellectual curiosity and cultural understanding.
To commemorate the program's 20th year, organizers selected books from four authors of Novel Idea past: David James Duncan (2004), María Amparo Escandón (2006), Peter Heller (2014), and Ann Griffin (2020).
"We wanted to commemorate this special year by bringing back beloved authors from previous years," said Novel Idea Coordinator Liz Goodrich. "All four authors have new books out for readers to consider."
Each author's new work of fiction was selected, with the exception of David James Duncan, whose first work of fiction was selected due to time conflicts with the event. "David James Duncan's much anticipated novel, 'Sun House,' comes out in the spring, but as the first Novel Idea author we wanted to include him," says Goodrich.
The books are:
"The Brothers K" by David James Duncan, whose "The River Why" was selected in the inaugural year of Novel Idea. "The Brothers K" tells the story of a Pacific Northwest family of eight spanning across decades of love, loss and loyalty in a world they're all still figuring out.
"L.A. Weather" by María Amparo Escandón. The author's second novel, "Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co.," was the 2006 Novel Idea selection. "L.A. Weather" is a Reese's book club pick revolving around a Mexican-American family as it reaches the brink of massive transformation, forced to rethink everything they think they know and reevaluate the relationships in their lives.
"The Guide" by Peter Heller, whose post-apocalyptic debut was the Novel Idea selection for 2014. In his newest thriller, readers return to Colorado, but this time following a young man who lands a job as an elite fishing guide to the stars and uncovers something sinister.
"Listening Still" by Ann Griffin. Griffin's 2019 debut novel, "When All Is Said," was chosen during the height of the pandemic, making a virtual author event necessary. This year will give participants the opportunity to meet Griffin in person and discuss the intricacies of a woman who communes with the recently deceased, as laid out in "Listening Still."
With up to eight titles to consider, readers are encouraged to select their own reading journey this year—reading just one, the four 2023 selections, or all eight books. Organizers are hopeful about participation this year given the unique circumstances. "We had 9,000 people participate last year," says Goodrich. "And with the amazing authors that will all be visiting in April, and the dynamic programming we're planning, we hope to top that number."
Now that the books are announced, anyone can join this community book club.
A Novel Idea kicks off April 1 with four weeks of programming where readers can immerse themselves in and expound on the themes found in all four novels. Past events have included art classes, writing workshops, historical presentations, film screenings and cooking classes.
The pinnacle of this year's event, as with every Novel Idea event, is the in-person author forum. On April 29, all four authors will gather at Bend Senior High School for a final hurrah of the 2023 Novel Idea season. Tickets are required, but free—as is all Novel Idea programming, thanks to sponsors. They'll be available to reserve starting April 10 on the Deschutes Public Library Foundation's website and all libraries in Deschutes County.
At the beginning of the year, readers can also get a Reading Passport, and the stamps to fill that passport upon finishing a book, at any library in the county. Upon filling the passport with all four stamps, readers can receive a commemorative book bag.
Visit the Deschutes Public Library website for more information about this year's selections, where to find copies, and updates about the 2023 Novel Idea event.