The Mayor’s Book Club is an annual citywide reading campaign to develop a community experience through reading and discussion of shared books. Additionally, the program’s goal is to broaden and deepen an appreciation of literature in the Austin community, to increase the visibility of the Austin Public Library, and to promote its value to the entire community.
Watch this space for announcement of the 2014 Mayor's Book Club selection!
Last year's Selections Featured Two National Book Award Finalists
In 2013, Mayor Lee Leffingwell selected two books to share with the city: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. Both novels explore the impact of the Iraq War on soldiers, families, and the American mindset, and both were finalists for the 2012 National Book Award. Powers visited Austin in April 2013 and Fountain visited in October for a series of events designed to engage the community in an exploration of the questions and concerns raised by the two novels.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
The Yellow Birds is a lyrical and afflicting account of two young privates engaged alongside their platoon in a bloody battle for the city of Al Tafar, Iraq. Beyond the fatigue, exhaustion, and the human toll of war, the novel eloquently renders what so many soldiers experience—the difficulty and isolation of returning home filled with memories and visions too difficult to speak of or set aside. This is Powers’s first novel, praised by writer Tom Wolfe as “the All Quiet on the Western Front of America’s Arab wars.”
Kevin Powers joined the army at the age of 17, later serving as a machine-gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq, in 2004 and 2005. After his honorable discharge, he enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University, where he graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in English. He recently earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin’s Michener Center for Writers.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk follows a small group of soldiers brought home and heralded for their heroic efforts during a firefight with Iraqi insurgents. As part of a whirlwind press junket, the soldiers are paraded onto the Dallas Cowboys’ football field for a Thanksgiving halftime show featuring Beyonce. The novel spans the course of a single football game, during which Billy Lynn, the protagonist, experiences the possibility of love and fame. But he and his fellow soldiers must confront the reality that they have been irreparably altered by the battle that brought them home for a celebration they can’t fully embrace. Delivered with humor and sharp prose, Fountain underscores what he calls “the huge gap between the reality of war as it’s experienced by the men and women fighting it, and the very artificial, often patently dishonest way in which the war was ‘sold’ to the American people.”
Ben Fountain is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. He has received the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and a Whiting Writers’ Award, among other honors and awards. He and his family live in Dallas, Texas. Writer Margot Livesey says of Fountain, “[He] writes like a man inspired, and his razor-sharp exploration of our contemporary ironies will break your heart.”
2013 Mayor's Book Club Events
Kevin Powers Events
Headline Event & Reading: Presented by the Harry Ransom Center and The University Co-op in conjunction with the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation’s Mayor’s Book Club. Mayor Lee Leffingwell welcomed Kevin Powers, who read from The Yellow Birds and spoke with Jim Magnuson, Director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Michener Center for Writers.
Community Conversation: Kevin Powers spoke with readers and answered questions about The Yellow Birds at the Austin History Center.
Writing Workshop: Kevin Powers also lead a writing workshop inspired by The Yellow Birds at the Hampton Branch Library in Oak Hill.
School Outreach: Kevin Powers spoke to students at McCallum High School.
Ben Fountain Events
Headline Event & Reading: Co-sponsored by the Harry Ransom Center. Mayor Lee Leffingwell welcomed Ben Fountain, who read from Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, followed by a conversation with Sarah Bird, author of The Gap Year.
Writing Workshop: Ben Fountain lead a writing workshop inspired by Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
School Outreach: Ben Fountain spoke to students at Reagan High School.
Mayor's Book Club Salon w/ The Dionysium: The Dionysium, a local, live monthly show exploring contemporary and historical ideas through lecture, debate, cartoons, music, and fun, dedicated its October program to The Yellow Birds and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
Previous Mayor's Book Club Selections
Each year, hundreds of readers participate in Mayor's Book Club events, which include author readings, discussions led by authors and other well-known Austinites, writing workshops, and school visits. All events are free and the public is encouraged to attend.
2012 - Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones Event video: Jesmyn Ward
Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp
Each summer, Badgerdog hosts three-week writing workshops for rising 3rd- through 12th-graders. These fun and intensive writing workshops allow students to work closely with a professional writer as they explore the arts of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and playwriting. By the end of the summer, all students experience the joy of performing and publishing their original work.
Named Camp Sloop family favorite reading & writing camp in 2013!
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