Kepler's Books and the Menlo Park Library have teamed up to start a community book club.
Their first pick for the program, called "Community Reads @ Home," is "Exit West," a novel by Mohsin Hamid.
Starting May 6, people are encouraged to buy the book from Kepler's online.
The Menlo Park Library will offer a limited number of paperback, large print or Spanish language library copies for those who don't want or can't afford to buy their own copies. People are asked to return the books when they can.
Participants can also borrow the e-book and audiobook versions of the story through the library.
Access more information at the program website, communityreads.org.
After reading the book, the library and Kepler's will organize discussion sessions, and host a virtual event with the author.
Details about those events are not yet available.
The concept of a community reading program isn't new, according to Library Services Director Sean Reinhart. The National Endowment for the Arts runs the "Big Read" program nationally.
What is unique, he said, is the library's close partnership with a bookstore.
"Libraries and bookstores are birds of a feather; two sides of the same coin," he said. "We want to support and encourage reading, lifelong learning and literacy throughout the community."
"We had all the elements to do this kind of thing remotely," he added.
The Menlo Park Library had already initiated a pilot program in partnership with Kepler's Books, as well as the Menlo Park Library Foundation and the Friends of the Menlo Park Library, to provide books by mail to a select number of library patrons who had books on hold but weren't able to pick them up because the library is closed, Reinhart said. So far about 300 people have enrolled. People who receive these new books are asked to return to the library when they are able.
The library has also started a "seed library" program, mailing seeds to interested library patrons. About 500 people have signed up, he added.
As the library staff looks to the future, the possibility of reopening things as they used to be remains slim for now, he said. But around the time that restrictions loosen to permit curbside pickups for local retailers, the library will be able to start allowing people to pick up books placed on hold, Reinhart said. However, he said, he anticipates continuing the books by mail program in a limited capacity for homebound seniors and other vulnerable populations.
About the book
The novel "Exit West" is about the lives of two young lovers, Nadia and Saeed, from an unnamed country at the onset of a civil war. They flee their ancestral home through a series of special portals taking them across the world, and eventually to Marin County, according to the Community Reads website. "This is an intimate story about displacement and leaving the people you love, but also a story of courage, loyalty, and our need for connection," it says. "This book raises important issues of borders and immigration, the use of technology for surveillance, one’s sense of identity and family, and how we define global community."
The novel is also being adapted into a feature film for Netflix, according to the website.
The Almanac and The Six Fifty, The Almanac's sister website, are media sponsors of the Community Reads program.