SR! 2011 Season News

Saratoga Reads Announces This Year's Book of Choice

The Housekeeper and the Professor, a novel by contemporary Japanese author Yoko Ogawa, has been selected as this year’s book of choice for Saratoga Reads, the community-wide reading program now in its seventh year.

Each year, Saratoga Reads invites area residents to nominate books for a shared reading experience and then to vote for their favorite title from a select group. This year, 431 votes were cast for the slate of top five titles, with The Housekeeper and the Professor garnering 120, or 28 percent of the vote. In second place was the novel Little Bee with 22 percent. The other contenders were the novel Await your Reply and two nonfiction works—No Impact Man and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

The Housekeeper and the Professor, written in Japanese and translated into English in by Stephen Snyder, is a best-seller in Japan, with more than 2.5 million copies sold since its publication in 2003. The English translation of the book was released in 2009.

The novel tells the story of a once-brilliant mathematics professor and baseball fanatic, who has been robbed of all but 80 minutes of short-term memory by a traumatic car accident. He passes his time in a ramshackle cottage in his sister-in-law’s backyard, with notes to aid his memory pinned all over his clothing. There he is tended by a housekeeper and her young son, with whom he forges a deep relationship, though he forgets them every day. Using the poetic qualities of mathematics and baseball, the book explores the trio’s unlikely friendship.

Describing the book as a “gorgeous, cinematic novel,” Susan Salter of the LA Times wrote, “The Housekeeper and the Professor is a perfectly sustained novel (a tribute to Stephen Snyder’s smooth translation); like a note prolonged, a fermata, a pause enabling us to peer intently into the lives of its characters.”

Wrote Dennis Overbye in the New York Times, “Dive into Yoko Ogawa’s world…and you will find yourself tugged by forces more felt than seen. What is the problem with all men in the housekeeper’s life? Who is the woman in the photograph buried under baseball cards in a tin on the professor’s desk? Can the professor love somebody he can’t remember? And of course: Where do numbers come from? The professor’s answer is that they are already there at the beginning of time, ‘in God’s notebook.’ “

With the announcement of this year’s winning book, the community is encouraged to read the novel and to develop and participate in a range of educational and cultural activities related to the book’s themes. To encourage young readers and families to participate, Saratoga Reads will announce a list of “junior companion books” on November 19.

“Each book we read as a community takes us on a shared adventure. Through past selections we have journeyed to Afghanistan, Mexico, the American south, the island of Guernsey, and even the Land of Oz,” said Tabitha Orthwein, chair of the Saratoga Reads board. “The Housekeeper and the Professor will transport us to Japan and into the world of mathematics, baseball, life with a disability, and the art of care-giving.”

Added Orthwein, “This novel’s themes provide us with many springboards for conversation and programming over the coming months, and I look forward to the many events to come.”

Saratoga Reads will officially launch its programming for 2010-11 with a kickoff book fair on Sunday, Dec. 5, at Barnes & Noble in Wilton. The event, which will feature in-store entertainment throughout the day, will raise funds to support the organization’s free public programs.

Major sponsors of Saratoga Reads are Barnes & Noble (Wilton), Borders (Saratoga Springs), Hewitt’s Garden Center,, Skidmore College, The Saratogian, Adirondack Trust Company, Community Care Pediatrics–Saratoga, Saratoga Springs Rotary Club, Sperry’s Restaurant, Wise Development Group, Impressions of Saratoga, and Smile Sanctuary.