Communities Read Garbology

I love the One Book, One City phenomenon, which brings a town (or campus or other sort of group) together to read, enjoy and discuss a single book. It's a fantastic way to foster both literacy and a sense of community through the power of storytelling.

My first experience with the One Book world was through contributing my essay, "The Last Little Beach Town," to the My California project, for which 27 writers (among them Michael Chabon, Thomas Steinbeck, Carolyn See and Aimee Liu) wrote essays describing our most treasured California places and experiences. All proceeds from the book support literacy programs for students, and the combination of a good read and good works pushed My California onto the bestseller list. Such cities as Santa Barbara, Long Beach, Sacramento and Whittier selected My California as their One Book read, and our roving troupe of writers attended events and community discussions around the state, where readers shared with us their own stories and insights. It was an amazing experience.

Which is why I'm so pleased that Garbology has been selected as a One Book choice for every incoming freshman this fall at California State University Northridge. Students participating in the Marymount College One Campus, One Book program also will be reading Garbology, along with the residents of Palos Verdes, California, in their One Book, One Peninsula program. And just this past week I learned that my alma mater, Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, has chosen Garbology as its campus common reading at the start of the new school year.

I am looking forward to joining these One Book gatherings. It's always gratifying when people show interest in my books, of course, but more importantly, these are opportunities to start community-wide conversations about our nation's over-consumption, disposable economy, and incredibly wasteful ways. We Americans produce more trash per capita than any other people on the planet. Trash is the biggest thing we make and our number one export, with each American on track to produce a staggering 102 tons of garbage in a lifetime.

P.S. The updated paperback version of Garbology is out this spring, just in time for Earth Day.